I found out about the opportunity to do an elective placement when I transferred to Kings College University. The pre-registration team were very helpful with details as the deadline to allocate my placement was tight. They pointed me to the website where I felt spoilt for choice.
At the beginning, I was daunted by the finances but determined to have this nursing experience, and so began crowdfunding alongside selling cupcakes and putting on raffles. I also had donations from healthcare companies including 30 pairs of scrubs to donate to my chosen location.
After my initial phone conversation, my mind was made up to use Work the World, the WtW team were so open and friendly, and answered all my enquiries and responded to emails quickly. The information given about each destination is clear, explanatory, and professional. I felt I could trust the organisation to arrange my degree placement. I knew I needed a new challenge: I wanted to be out of my comfort zone and stretch my medical knowledge.
I chose Ghana because I wanted to experience the country in its fullness, and not just a purely clinical placement. I felt the village healthcare experience would also give me the best opportunity to do that. I had also been studying a Global Health module and West Africa really captured my imagination. Before the hospital orientation, I remember feeling anxious as there had been a high precedent set by the very experienced qualified nurse who was already working in the A&E. I was really looking forward to it, but wasn’t sure what A&E would be expecting from me. I was also highly excited, a cocktail of enthusiasm and nerves. The hospital was stifling, but I had only been in Ghana for three days and so hadn’t adjusted to the heat just yet. All the members of staff–like every Ghanaian–were warm and welcoming.
My time in Obstetrics and Gynaecology was by far my favourite placement: I built good relationships with Auntie Ester and her team, who allowed me to develop my assessment skills and care of the obstetric patient.
This allowed me to combine the two areas of interest that I am considering working in, both in Oncology and Gynaecology. I assisted in nursing a patient who had anaemia and an ovarian mass, I carefully monitored her HB with her doctor and once we had maintained her HB for 3 days we consented her for theatre. Dr Labi kindly allowed me to shadow him in theatre to see the removal of the mass, which unfortunately resulted in a total hysterectomy. We then had to follow up and council her for the next week to deal with the biopsy results and refer to a hospital in Accra for further oncology treatment. It was a very emotional case as she was the same age as me, but it was a great learning opportunity both medically and surgically.
I leant a diverse range of skills; from the importance of consent to how insurance and finances work alongside healthcare. I also saw there were major cultural differences surrounding how the body and illness is viewed, end of life care, the role families play in care of the patient, and the limited range of treatments and medication in local hospitals and in community care. I was competently assisting to triage patients with a nurse translator in A&E, and was given opportunities to develop my knowledge in areas such as reproductive health and HIV clinic.
I also did some extra travelling: Axim resort was beautiful with a private beach where you could totally relax. Kakum national park and 4.30am jungle canopy walk were also breath-taking. We broke the journey to Kakum with a stop at Cape Coast Castle, very sad history but important to appreciate while you are in Ghana.
The Work the World house was beautiful. The pool and summer house were perfect for hanging out with friends. I went during an off-peak period so there were only ever fifteen people in the house, I think this allowed me to make strong friendships. I especially loved the WtW family: Ophelia, Gifty, Frank, Jo and Allhasan all made the time amazing. The Thursday night BBQ’s were brilliant fun and much-needed stress relief to shake off any of the week’s worries.
The village week is a must. It was truly the highlight of my whole trip. Wisdom, the community specialist nurse, is wonderfully welcoming and you could see he enjoyed having students to both teach and to learn from. The local home-stay host, Auntie Comfort, and her family are vibrant and happy, making you feel instantly at home. They over-feed you like an auntie who hasn’t seen you in years! The children–Blessing and Celestina–are beautiful balls of energy to be around. Even though we were without electricity for 4 days due to a massive storm, a highlight was communing one evening in the dark after dinner and teaching the girls ‘head shoulders knees and toes’ and ‘the hokey kokey’.
Wisdom had the total trust of his patients, and when we were giving advice and support for long-term conditions you really felt they wanted to hear what we had to say. It was a refreshing change. We experienced a diverse range of nursing, from going into school to talk about nutrition and exercise to making a splint for a stroke patient, to testing children for malaria and doing the monthly weighing and vaccination clinic. There were over 40 women and babies here The village week was well planned with a lot of clinical experiences and equally diverse afternoon trips: Cape three point was a stunning location.
To students thinking of taking their nursing elective in Ghana: it’s an assault on the senses!
- It is loud! There is constant hustle and bustle, taxis beeping, and music playing. It is hot… and sometimes wet. I have never experienced rain like it but equally I have a nice glow!
- It has a particular fragrance, especially in the market circle of salted fish and red oil.
- It is dusty, you’ll always be lightly sprinkled with a rust coloured dust, so don’t wear white!
- It is an amazing place to experience a journey of self-discovery, I have never been so stretched emotionally, physically and mentally both on clinical placement and in my free time, but it was so worth it.
I highly recommend coming to Takoradi to broaden your clinical experience, meet warm friendly people and enjoy a vibrant exciting culture.