Going to Africa was always a dream of mine so when the opportunity arose to do an elective placement abroad in Takoradi, Ghana, it really was a no brainer.
I felt that this choice would benefit my professional development the most, as well as provide me with the opportunity to appreciate a different culture that I hadn’t experienced before.
Of course, it was not going to be easy to afford such a big trip. So I worked overtime and created a GoFundMe page to raise the money.
I didn't expect much but it was so worth it, I received so much support and thanks to that I could undertake a unique experience!
My first impression of the hospital left me feeling really overwhelmed. It was bigger than I thought and felt crowded.
Curious eyes followed us all very carefully as we were led on a tour through each department.
It all felt surreal. I was in a different world and I just couldn't believe I was really there!
Prior to my trip, I knew that the healthcare system in Ghana was going to differ greatly from the UK's in many aspects.
Although the Work the World team did an amazing job to prepare me for the many possible feelings and scenarios I might encounter, it didn’t compare to the real thing.
Very often people in Ghana were unable to afford care or had been unable to seek medical help until the later stages of their illness.
The yearly health insurance did not sound like much to me and it was not cheap nor easy for many individuals to accumulate a large sum of money at once to pay for it.
If people were unable to pay for treatment or their relatives were unable to pick up the necessary supplies from the hospital's store in order to move forward with their treatment plans, they did not receive the care.
I found the system difficult to comprehend as I've only ever known a public healthcare service that does not charge anyone at the door to receive quality care.
it gave me more incentive to learn how the healthcare professionals overcome such challenges.
I anticipated this would be my biggest challenge alongside the lack of available resources but it gave me more incentive to learn how the healthcare professionals overcome such challenges.
When I started placement, it didn't take long before both the hospital staff and patients made me feel welcome which made the new environment easier to get used to.
People were eager to teach me about their culture and answer any clinical questions I had. The more questions I asked, the more I got out of the entire experience.
It was also great fun trying to communicate in their language which helped to build trust and a stronger professional relationship.
I was able to assist with many nursing tasks and responsibilities that were within my capabilities, such as; carrying out personal care, taking observations, redressing surgical wounds, preparing IV medications, inserting catheters, performing chest compressions, airway management, and much more. This made me feel so much more resourceful.
I spent a day in the theatre which was very interesting. I witnessed a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) and found that I still had more anatomy knowledge to improve on.
Wherever I was in the hospital, I was always able to take the opportunity to learn more and develop existing skills.
A scenario that stood out the most to me, which I also found the most difficult to process, was when a patient was rushed into A&E after a road traffic accident.
Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts and using any supplies they could get their hands on, they were unable to save the patient.
Back in the UK, everything is so easily accessible including our crash trolleys that are always prepared with emergency equipment needed for moments similar to this.
It was tough in those circumstances to come to terms with knowing that there was not enough funding to provide the required supplies and staff just had to work with what they had.
But, being a nurse, wherever in the world, you naturally build resilience over time to be able to adapt to the stresses of the nursing profession.
The Work the World accommodation and housekeeping team were brilliant.
In the afternoons, we took time to chill around the pool or venture out to the markets and take language lessons.
The evenings could be filled with lots of social interaction such as getting your groove on at BBQ nights with people from all over the world.
I definitely found that my confidence was building as I undertook my placement and lived with so many people from different backgrounds.
On the weekends we had the opportunity to explore more of Ghana and of course I jumped at the chance to do so.
One weekend we camped out in a treehouse and another weekend we took a very long journey up to Mole's National park, which required stopping at various destinations over a few days but it was totally worth the trip!
I had never seen an elephant in real life before, let alone tracking one in its natural habitat… and on my 25th birthday – a birthday I will never forget.
It was an experience of a lifetime and if I could, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.