University of Michigan 2020
I spent three weeks in Takoradi, Ghana and had the most amazing experience.
When initially trying to decide where to do my internship, I knew that I wanted to go somewhere in Africa but could not decide which country.
Then, an opportunity arose for me to travel to Dodowa, Ghana with faculty from my nursing school for a research project on Group Antenatal Care. Thus, I was able to seamlessly transition from my three weeks spent doing research in Dodowa to Takoradi for my three-week-long internship.
Everyone from the Work the World team was extremely helpful and organized so much on their end to make the planning process as easy as possible.
What struck me the most about Ghana was how friendly the people were. They went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and felt welcomed, and it was an amazing feeling to be accepted into their loving communities.
the lack of resources was clear, and I was in awe of their resourcefulness
I did the first two weeks of my placement in the regional hospital and was initially surprised at how large the hospital was. However, the lack of resources was clear, and I was in awe of their resourcefulness compared to our abundant medical waste in the US.
For my two weeks in the hospital, I was in the labor and delivery ward, which offered me countless experiences I had not yet been exposed to halfway through my nursing education.
I did the internship with my friend, and we soon learned that by taking initiative and forming relationships with the nurses, midwives, and doctors, they were happy to let us observe and assist with patient care where we were qualified.
The most challenging part of my hospital placement was experiencing healthcare practices that I was not used to, and knowing that it was not my place to try to change them but to learn from them.
In the US, the care of a laboring woman is very therapeutic and focused on supporting the woman physically and emotionally. However, in Ghana, supportive measures during labor were rare, as the focus was instead on delivering a healthy baby, which we sometimes take for granted in the US.
While we were briefed on these cultural differences prior to our placement and were provided emotional support from Work the World, it was challenging to experience at first. However, it did not take away from the awe-inspiring experience of helping a mother bring her newborn baby into the world, and my friend and I got to assist with numerous births that warmed our hearts.
Despite this, one of the most memorable cases that I experienced was when a mother had to be induced to deliver her stillborn baby. Her baby was not very far along gestationally and had health defects that prevented it from thriving, and it was a very emotional process.
I was not sure how the healthcare staff would go about her situation, but I was in awe at the compassion and sensitivity they showed to the laboring mother.
She was able to stay in her bed in the antenatal ward instead of going to the labor ward, and nurses cradled her head and spoke soft words of encouragement the whole time. It was a very sad situation but I was humbled at the kindness I experienced.
With all of the labors my friend and I got to be a part of, we appreciated the positive effect that we could have simply by holding a hand or applying therapeutic touch, despite language barriers and cultural differences.
In addition to the labor ward, we also got to spend time in the antenatal and postnatal clinics, where the nurses were insistent on tying babies to our back, which everyone found hysterical!
I drastically grew in confidence
Throughout my time in the hospital, I drastically grew in confidence and was pushed outside of my comfort zone to be more outgoing and make opportunities for myself.
Aside from the amazing clinical experiences, some of my favorite memories were spent hanging out with the other students in the beautiful Work the World house and on weekend trips.
For most of our stay, my friend and I were the only Americans, and that was a great experience to be able to meet and learn from people with such different backgrounds to us.
During the week, after placement, we would spend our time swimming in the pool and taking taxi rides to the market to buy fabric for a seamstress to make into clothes.
The Work the World chef made amazing meals and nothing beat barbeque night on Thursdays, which were filled with good food and dancing all night!
In addition, the in-country team were incredibly helpful, offering advice for planning weekend trips.
Our first weekend, my friend and I went with other students to Kakum National Park, an amazing hike through the jungle and canopy walk high off the ground. And Cape Coast Castle, a historical landmark that was upsetting but incredibly informational and awe-inspiring to experience.
We also spent time on the beach, learning how to surf and playing pick-up soccer games with local kids.
Our second weekend, we took a 15-hour road trip to Mole National Park, the only place in Ghana to see elephants. During the drive, we stopped to ride horses around a beautiful lake, swam in a waterfall, and shopped at an art market.
Both of my weekend trips were some of the most fun I have ever had and offered the opportunity to further explore the beautiful country.
Village Healthcare Week
Despite the amazing experiences I had in my first two weeks, my favorite was the Village Healthcare Week, which I cannot recommend enough.
My friend and I went to a small fishing village, where we stayed with a host family. We were immediately welcomed into the community and became so close with our host family and other kids in the village.
While in the village, we spent our mornings in the Community Health Clinic and gained invaluable experience assisting with home visits, testing for malaria and administering medication, and leading a discussion on sexual health at a local school.
In the afternoons, Work the World organized a local guide that would take us on excursions throughout the village that included a canoe ride, beach trip, hike to fort ruins, and more!
The connections that we formed in the village and the exposure to living in simpler circumstances was an amazing and unforgettable experience!
I cannot thank Work the World and all of the wonderful Ghanaians enough, and I hope to be back soon!