In the second year of my nursing degree, I took a big step. I went to Zambia in Africa for a three-week nursing placement!
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn't miss out on.
Arriving in Zambia
A member of Work the World’s Lusaka team met us at the airport. She made us feel welcome right away. After a quick introduction, we were on our way to the Work the World house.
The house was huge.
The team showed us around, answering any questions we had and introduced us to our housemates.
The rest of the staff in the house made us feel right at home.
The house had different areas we could sit in and relax, both inside and outside. There was even a balcony outside where we sat and unwound after placement. It gave us time to reflect on our day in the hospital.
Sharing experiences was a big part of life in the house.
A language teacher came to the house twice a week. They taught us clinical and everyday phrases in the local language, which was very useful in the hospital.
I quickly got talking to other students. It was great to listen to how everyone was getting on. Sharing experiences was a big part of life in the house.
Living with the other students was a lot of fun. We were all from different medical fields, so it was a learning opportunity too.
As we were all from different parts of the world, we learnt things about our respective countries and the different sayings we all had.
I made so many friends.
A Nursing Placement to Remember
My placement was fantastic. I was made to feel part of the department team from the get go.
Local nurses and doctors were doing a remarkable job, especially considering the lack of resources they had to deal with.
The nurses and doctors had this knack for improvising, using what little they had to care for and treat their patients.
There were so many unique conditions and problems, and it was fascinating to see how staff dealt with them.
I spent a week on a surgical ward and saw lots of pre- and post-op patients with various surgical wounds.
I also spent a week in A&E. I was on triage and observed in casualty. There were so many unique conditions and problems, and it was fascinating to see how staff dealt with them.
One patient I triaged didn’t speak any English. “Muli bwanji”, I said — “how are you?”.
The patient smiled and replied, appreciatively.
Embracing the local language and culture was beneficial for both the patients and I.
The local nurses and doctors often asked how the care in the UK differed from care they provided.
They told me that they wanted to promote their own style of nursing and introduce up-to-date technologies to give patients the best possible care.
My housemates and I really did make the most of our time in Zambia.
There was a book in the house that previous students had written in. It was filled with the best trips (and tips) they’d organised during evenings and weekends.
We found it really useful when planning trips to take in our own free time.
We went to Livingstone one weekend and it was magical. There were two ways to get there — an 8-hour bus that was £16 each way. Or an hour-long flight that cost £300.
We took the bus.
The bus at 5:30 in the morning was the earliest departure from Lusaka. We chose this one because we wanted time to explore when we arrived.
We stayed at a backpackers hostel, but it was nothing like any hostel you’ve seen before. It was beautiful!
Our guide spotted lion tracks just a couple of meters from our camp.
We squeezed in a lot over the course of that weekend. A sunset river cruise, a day at Victoria Falls (words cannot describe), and we saw more wildlife than you could shake a stick at.
There were different trails to follow at Victoria Falls and we followed as many as we could. The ‘Boiling Point’ path was hard work but worth it.
We did a safari in Botswana. The route ran through Chobe National Park, and we saw a lot of animals up close in their natural habitat.
We camped out for the night and heard hippos outside the tent. When we left the next morning, our guide spotted lion tracks just a couple of meters from the camp.
It was an outstanding experience.
In the African Village
I spent my final week in a rural African village.
Before I left for Zambia, I added Work the World’s (optional) Village Healthcare Experience to my main placement.
I lived with one of the families in the village. They were welcoming, and I soon felt at home and part of the family.
The mother cooked delicious meals for us, so we asked her to show us how to make them for ourselves. She obliged.
One nurse took my friend and I under her wing and she was brilliant.
It was exciting to bring a little bit of Zambian culture back to the UK.
We spent mornings in the village hospital. It was a lot smaller than our main placement hospital Lusaka. That said, it did a brilliant job providing care for patients.
My placement was in maternity. One nurse took my friend and I under her wing and she was brilliant. She involved us in everything.
We built a relationship with her and came to think of her as friend.
The mother of the family we were living with happened to be a midwife. It was great to see a side of her different to the one she presented back at the house.
I can’t pick out a favourite experience from my time in Zambia. I enjoyed every part of my trip. I made so many memories and learnt more than I could have imagined.
It was all amazing, and completely exceeded my expectations.
The experience changed me as a person and I’m looking forward to going back. I would strongly recommend it to you.