University of Leicester 2009

Medical, Ghana Takoradi

I've read through the other case studies and decided some practical tips would be useful for people once they've chosen Ghana as a destination.

The house:

Very comfortable and homely.  Take very thin clothing to wear at night, as the temperature never really seems to drop!  Nobody (including vegetarians) will go hungry in the house; the majority of us actually put on a couple of pounds!  There is a supermarket in town selling snacks and all toiletries including sanitary products so don't be worried about running out of anything.  Western brands are available but you will pay for them!

The hospital:

Very hot!  I would definitely recommend bringing scrubs to wear although there is a big bag full in the house which students could borrow.  The dress code is otherwise quite relaxed.  I took a fair amount of alcohol gel for my own use but discovered I needn't have taken so many gloves, as they are available.  In terms of equipment to take and leave with the hospital, they don't have much so anything would be greatly appreciated!  What I really noticed was the lack of tourniquets and reference books so out of date BNFs and Oxford Handbooks would be great.  You'll find the staff at the hospital to be very friendly and always willing to teach.

I undertook 2 weeks in psychiatry and 4 weeks in general medicine.  Psychiatry was useful as a cultural experience because I got to know the student nurses well but I don't think the attachment is substantial enough for more than a week. There is a certain amount of flexibility to which department you'd like to experience and students did swap.  I however would recommend sticking to each department for a good amount of time, as you really become part of the team that way, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in medicine.  Students tend to want to know how hands on they'll get to be and the honest answer is however much you want to be.  Go open minded and you'll learn a great deal about medicine.

Travelling:

The staff out in Ghana will tell you what you should be spending on taxis and tro tros so you don't pay more than you should and by the time you leave Ghana you'll be a professional haggler! The housemates travel together at weekends.  I'd recommend the Brandt travel guide to Ghana that was invaluable.  In the house however is the 'little green book' in which previous students have written up accounts of where they've been, how to get there, where to stay, how much money to take and other useful tips.  A special travel towel (expensive but worth it) and a good torch are musts.  Importantly, there wasn't a time when I didn't feel safe as a female travelling alone.

Other tips:

I took £100 per week from which I had about £50 left over at the end and I certainly didn't count my pennies as I went along!  Students can have their clothes washed once a week for a small fee but I would still take a small bottle of travel wash.  Beware that anything white will not remain so for long and will need bleaching when you get home!  Try and learn from my mistake and pack as light as you can, you'll want to bring back lots of gifts, many of which may be made of wood.  With regards keeping in touch with people back home, there are 2 Internet cafes close to the house, very cheap but slow is an understatement!  You can buy a local SIM card for calls at reasonable rates but make sure your mobile won't be locked abroad. Stock up on lots of DEET insect repellent before you leave the UK and take a higher factor sun-cream than you'd normally use, (some students had problems with burning if they were on doxycycline as an anti-malarial.)  And finally, you will get diarrhoea so stock up in boots before you leave!

I had an amazing time on my elective, it surpassed all expectations.  Ghana is an amazing country with the warmest people I've ever met and the staff, along with your housemates, will become good friends.  I could not recommend WTW more highly, my elective went completely smoothly thanks to all the team, it's the best way to do it!

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