What a country! From the minute you land in Dar es Salaam, it’s incredible. It’s warm and humid – usually about 30c all year round – so crack out your shades, shorts and t-shirts.
Within Dar es Salaam itself there is a distinct cultural difference, and anyone who isn’t African is called ‘Mzungu’. This is not an offensive term; it means ‘traveller’ or ‘wanderer’, and can have its perks. Locals are usually nicer to you, but you are also more likely to get charged extra for things.
Tip: To get a ‘Mbongo’ (local person) price, say “Rafiki, Mzungu prices”. Nine times out of ten this will get you a much cheaper price. If in doubt, ask the local Work the World team and they’ll tell if you’re being charged too much. In short, no words can describe how incredible the country and people are. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself!
The health care experience… where to start! I spent two weeks in Psychiatry, one week in Internal Medicine and an add-on week on the Village Healthcare Experience.
The first three were spent at a university hospital – a long but often rather funny ride on the local bus, or ‘dala dala’. (As someone over 6ft my head often touched the roof – tall people beware!)
Psychiatric care in Muhimbili is on a par with UK Psychiatric care. The staff take a multidisciplinary approach to patients care, and usually use UK legislation, or an adapted version at least. As a learning disability student nurse, it was the most amazing thing to see that Muhimbili had a good understanding of learning disabilities!
Surprisingly, the only area that was different from ‘Western standards’ was acute care. At this point you have to remember to be aware of your own emotions, and act appropriately.
They do restrain people using bed straps if they become difficult to manage, and use a lot of medication.
The social work team were hands-down the most fun. I got to go with them to schools and did assessments on children with physical and mental health conditions. I also got a chance to meet some children with albinism, a condition that was really interesting to see the locals’ perspective on.
Internal medicine. I recommend that everyone at least looks around this ward to truly experience what Tanzania’s healthcare system is like. I worked on a ward for males with neurological and pulmonary disorders, and infectious diseases. You will see almost every condition on this ward from malaria to TB, and so working here gave me the greatest understanding of the most prominent health issues.
I saw one specific case that really helped me to understand how badly TB can affect an individual. A man between the ages of 25 and 30 had secondary poly resistant TB in his right lung, and nearly complete fibrosis of his left. To examine an X-ray in Tanzania you have to hold it up to the window! I spent time with the Doctor talking through the man’s case, and was talked through a treatment plan for him. I took a photo of his X-ray to show people back at home how ill this man was (after asking permission of course!):
The staff in the hospital are all super friendly and ready to support you if you’re engaged, enthusiastic and ask lots of questions. Try to learn Swahili the best you can – even if you are rubbish at it, at least try.
The village week was so good. Hands down the most laughs were had here during my time in Tanzania. The host family were friendly, and the food… The food! If there were one thing I could go back for it would be Mama Sarah’s cooking. It was the tastiest food in the world!
In short, no words can describe how incredible the country and people are. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself!
The actual village hospital is the polar opposite to the university hospital. They have a lot of resources (but still need more) and it was really interesting to see how they operated. We got to see some really cool things while there. The labs were super interesting.
Afternoon activities were the highlight of the Village Experience. I won’t spoil any by telling you, but let do yourself go and get stuck in. We had such an amazing time during the activities. No picture can describe how fun they were! GET STUCK IN!
Tip: Take earplugs and bug spray – you’ll thank me!
If you haven’t fallen asleep while reading this, and then woken up with a keyboard print on your face, This one last statement may be of interest to you…
Leaving will be emotional. Even from a person who has the emotional range of a tea spoon, it was not easy saying goodbye to the incredible Tanzanians I met, or other students in the Work the World house. I still speak to everyone. It’s like having a family (albeit slightly dysfunctional) scattered across the world.
Best. Experience. Ever.