Last year, I had the incredible chance to travel to Lusaka, Zambia to participate in a pharmacy internship. I chose Zambia because traveling to Africa has always been a dream of mine. I wanted to go to a country that was out of my comfort zone and push myself to experience a culture that I had never been exposed to before. I was also interested in learning about pharmacy in a completely different health care setting. Zambia seemed a perfect match for all of these things.
I hopped on a plane and traveled for 20 hours to arrive in Zambia. Traveling alone was a nerve-wracking experience but as soon as I landed at the airport the Work the World team were there to welcome me to Africa!
On my first day in the hospital I was surprised by a few different things. First, the layout of the hospital was so unique. The entrances and hallways were all outdoors and the hospital was sprawled out between many different campuses and specialty buildings. The hospital was constantly busy and had a large team of employees.
Another shock to me was the lack of electronic health records and communication. All patients carried around their health history, and prescriptions were only filled when a paper copy was physically brought to the pharmacy. Because communication is so difficult, the pharmacist has an agreement that if the prescription is not available an alternative could easily be prescribed without having to chase down the physician. These practices were unlike those in the United States and I was able to learn a lot about the responsibility the pharmacists in Zambia take on.
One experience that I will not forget was my time in the infectious disease ward which specifically cares for patients that have been diagnosed with HIV.
After I began to adjust to the differences in the hospital, I had the chance to see the different forms of pharmacy in Lusaka. I was able to experience the central pharmacy, the ICU, the pediatric ICU, and attend ward rounds with the physicians.
One experience that I will not forget was my time in the infectious disease ward which specifically cares for patients that have been diagnosed with HIV. In my time at pharmacy school I had little interaction with HIV patients, but while in Zambia I was able to talk directly to patients about this disease and how it had specifically affected their lives.
One distinctive interaction was when I was speaking with a mother who is HIV positive and had just given birth. She was nervously expressing her concern that her infant would be HIV positive. We were able to explain to the mother a medication regimen that would help prevent this. The mother was so grateful she started crying and thanking us. Interactions like these were daily occurrences and it gave me an incredible chance to work on my patient interaction skills as well as my medical knowledge.
Victoria Falls was absolutely breathtaking and was such an incredible place to explore.
Outside of the hospital, there were plenty of fun excursions that I was able to participate in. My favorite was a trip to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls and a safari in Chobe National Park. Victoria Falls was absolutely breathtaking and was such an incredible place to explore. I even had the chance to bungee jump in front of the falls and it is a view and experience that will forever go unmatched.
The safari was another adventure that I will always remember. We were able to take both a boat and land tour to see all types of wild animals.
My time outside of the hospital was made even better because of the people I was able to meet. In the house in Lusaka, there was a range of students from all over the world. This was an aspect of my trip that I did not expect. I loved hearing about the culture and different schools in other parts of the world.
All of the students that I met were so welcoming and excited to take on the once in a lifetime experience. The staff in the house were always friendly and accommodating and made me feel extremely comfortable so far away from home.
I would recommend to any student who wants to experience a healthcare internship overseas to travel to Lusaka.