My journey started when I was given the opportunity by my university to complete an elective placement abroad followed by a presentation from a Work the World representative who came into my university. After doing some research I decided to choose Ghana as my destination.
It started with a simple online application and a welcome phone call from Work the World confirming my placement. Work the World have an easy to use portal full of information packs and a timeline outlining important steps, right from you submitting your application through to departure day. I found this timeline very helpful especially being busy with university and placements.
I am a student paediatric nurse and my aim for this elective placement was to see the difference in health care between the UK and Ghana, see the variation of illnesses and conditions and learn about the culture. My four-week placement was split between paediatrics, the neonatal intensive care unit, obstetrics and gynaecology and a Village Healthcare Experience week.
With the help of the Work the World team over the last few months, I arrived at the airport in Accra, and was warmly welcomed and greeted by a member of the Work the World team. I was taken to a hotel where I met eleven other students who had arrived over the same weekend before we set off the next day to Takoradi. Over the 4 hour drive we got to see the beautiful coast of Ghana while getting to know each other in the van.
We arrived at the beautiful Work the World house in Takoradi with a big hello and hug from the housekeeper. After settling in we were served lunch by the house chefs and given a tour of the house.
On Monday morning, we had a welcome briefing with the programme director who made us all feel at home. We discussed Ghana, the different departments in the hospital and what to expect in the coming weeks. Throughout the day we visited our placement hospital with a member of the Work the World team who introduced us to our supervisors. We were also shown around the local town where we visited the local markets and ended the day with a beautiful walk on the beach.
I saw cases of severe malaria, malnourishment in children and a variety of genetic conditions.
My first placement week was in the general paediatric ward. Throughout the week I observed a ward round with the consultant, nurses and Ghanaian students. During this ward round I saw cases of severe malaria, malnourishment in children and a variety of genetic conditions. It was interesting to observe the differences and a real eye-opener how families have to pay for nearly everything including medications, equipment such as needles, and meals to eat while in hospital. I realised many children were admitted to hospital with only their grandmothers due to their mothers working far away from home to financially help their families.
The Village Healthcare Week was the best part of my experience in Ghana. This is where Fort Fredericksburg is, the last standing German fort left in West Africa. As the fort was named after a Prince, it is why this village is referred to as Princes Town. I felt that I was able to fulfil my goal of learning more about Ghana. The week started off by being greeted by our tour guide who travelled with us to the village. We met our host for the week and her family who welcomed us with open arms into their home. We then went for a walk around the village with the local children surrounding us with smiles and laughter, visited our placement clinic, and ended the tour with a nice walk to where we could see the sea and river clashing under the sunset.
The community clinic is the primary source of healthcare for the locals in the village as the city hospital is much further away. Throughout the week I did many manual blood pressures, rapid diagnosis testing for malaria and was woken up by a nurse at 10pm to observe the delivery of a baby. It was a real eye-opener to learn that women are expected to give birth without pain relief and not have their partners with them during labour. After placement each day we had afternoon activities where we learnt how palm wine is made, canoed down the river and learnt the precious history of Fort Fredericksburg.
The reality and differences in healthcare in Ghana was a shock. It was the small things that made many differences such as the lack of resources to be able to care for patients. It was difficult to see there wasn’t enough ventilators or even something simple like not being able to wash our hands with running water. The support offered by the Work the World team was very helpful and they were always there and willing to listen at any time.
Part of this experience was meeting students from all over the world studying a variety of healthcare courses from physiotherapy to radiography, as well as student doctors and nurses from different fields. Friendships were formed which allowed us to share experiences together.
After a full week of placement, we had the weekend to ourselves giving us time to explore the beauty of Ghana. We spent time watching elephants from an infinity pool in the middle of a national park and slept in a treehouse waking up at 4am to see monkeys jumping between the trees before sunrise. The views from the treetop adventure were totally worth the hike through a wet and muddy forest. I will never forget the smiles and love the children showed us when we visited local schools.
One thing I have taken away from this placement is an appreciation of the NHS. A big thank you to all the Work the World team in Ghana and the support from the team in the UK.