This summer, I spent six weeks in Zambia nursing at a university teaching hospital.
I wanted to study abroad for as long as I could remember, but my busy schedule meant that it wasn’t feasible.
So, instead I looked for a summer program that would develop my nursing skills while experiencing a new culture.
After a lot of research, I found Work the World and they were exactly what I was looking for.
I’d always wanted to visit Africa. With the opportunities to go on a real safari and visit Victoria Falls, Zambia was the obvious choice.
Traveling alone was scary at first, but it was so worth it.
To give you an outline my placement constituted of time in both the city of Lusaka and the Village Healthecare Experience, where I rotated through the post-operative male surgical ward, the theater, labor and delivery ward, gynecology triage, various pediatric wards, and the NICU.
At first I was taken aback by some of the wounds I saw. But when I was more comfortable I helped clean and redress them. I also helped patients suffering from malaria to meningitis in the Pediatric ICU.
From then I took any opportunity that I could, within the scope of my experience.
I found myself doing many of the same procedures I’d done doing during my clinical rotation at home. Inserting urinary catheters and NG tubes for example.
But learning how to do these in such a low-resource setting was enlightening.
The hospital didn’t even have a digital documentation system. It was all on paper.
During my down-time in the NICU, I comforted babies whose mothers weren’t able to come in and hold them.
I spent some time alongside local nursing students too. They were keen to show me how they performed their procedures. We entered into fascinating conversations about the similarities and differences in our education.
She said to me, “I have two children, so I want to name one after you.”
One of my favorite experiences was in the labor and delivery ward where I witnessed my first birth.
I don’t remember the mother’s name, but she was having twins.
In Zambia, it’s culturally inappropriate for visitors to be with the mother during labor. So, I helped support this mother as she brought the babies into the world.
After her second baby was born, she said to me “I have two children, so I want to name one after you.”
I was floored. Of course, I told her she really didn’t have to.
She named her daughter ‘Chikondi’. It was the name the local nursing students gave to me during my first rotation in the hospital. It means ‘Love’, in Nyanja — the local language.
A Work the World experience is about more than just the clinical aspects.
My friends from the Work the World house and I took a weekend trip to Victoria Falls. They’re the world’s largest waterfalls and one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen.
We crossed the border into Botswana too. We took a motorboat over the river and went on a safari.
I could describe how amazing it was, but it wouldn’t do it justice.
We went on a lot of day trips too. One of which was to a series of natural water holes known as the ‘Monkey Pools’.
On another trip we went to the local markets to trade some of our nick-nacks for souvenirs.
We spent some evenings playing cards, and I fondly remember nights spent chatting with my roommates under our mosquito nets.
My housemates. The Work the World staff. The hospital patients, the nurses, the doctors and students. They all made Lusaka feel like a second home.
I made friends from all over the world and learned so much more than I expected.
I now have a profound appreciation for the education and healthcare systems we take for granted in the US.
I’ll never forget my experience in Zambia and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.