I was a 4th year Paramedic and was chatting to my tutor at university about wanting to gain relevant experience abroad, so he informed me about a Turing Grant. They don’t usually grant it for 4th year students but I applied, got it and it funded over half the cost of my 3 week placement to Tanzania - it was super helpful!
To be honest, I was happy to go to any of the destinations Work the World offered on their website but it was the possibility of going on a safari that swung Tanzania for me. Going on safari is something I’ve always wanted to do, I know it’s expensive, but thought as I was heading to Tanzania, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I was travelling on my own and I was a bit daunted about going abroad all by myself, I had never done anything like this before but it was so easy.
When I landed in Dar es Salaam and went through arrivals the Work the World team were there to greet me. In fact in Dubai I had seen another student wearing a Work the World t-shirt but I was too tired to say hello, funnily enough that person is now someone I am really good friends with.
Upon arriving at the Work the World house everyone was so welcoming, I felt like I fit right in. I’d seen photos of the house before I went, but it was so much nicer than I thought it would be. There was a fantastic swimming pool, loads of areas to chill out in, big balconies, lovely rooms and many communal spaces, plus amazing food. The weekly BBQ nights was so much fun, we were dancing and singing. I probably underestimated how important it was to be living in a private house with other healthcare students. The whole set up was incredible support and most importantly fun, I never felt like I was on my own and never felt daunted by what I was undertaking.
From the moment I booked my placement to the moment I got home, I never felt alone. I received detailed calls in the run up to my departure, the online placement planner was super helpful. I asked so many questions before I left, every single one of them was answered and I never felt stupid asking them. For me, this was exactly what I needed.
I spent three weeks in the Emergency Department which I found so incredible. There was a culture shock, but I guess I expected that.
As a Paramedic it is so useful for me to have a better understanding of what happens in hospitals - in the UK for example we would hand the patient over to the A&E department and to an extent our job was then done, I would never get to see what then happened.
There isn’t a national paramedic service in Tanzania, they’ve trialled it in the past and it didn’t work for them. Most of the ambulances are private. Patients tend to be brought straight to the ED by family members and so on, so being placed in this department was incredibly insightful.
It was so good to build new skills. We get a lot of extra education in the UK which in the ambulance service doesn’t really get put into use, so being able to practice this here was so beneficial.
I am not going to lie, it was difficult at times and definitely something to get used to, but I adapted and I was supported, I loved it.
As a Paramedic I think there would have been a few different departments that would have been great to visit had I had more time - I spent a day in the Paediatric Burns Unit and a day on the Labour Ward - these are all things we have to deal with as a Paramedic so to get to see the care side of things was incredibly interesting. It was also really good to be able to put my own skills to the test and I really gained confidence.
On my first day I saw a really sick patient who had Malaria. This is not something I’ve ever seen before, nor am I likely to see it again anytime soon. The patient had so many symptoms and for a UK healthcare worker Malaria would simply not be something we would have to consider.
I got to work alongside a cardiologist and a couple of consultants on a patient who went into cardiac arrest and we had to resuscitate the patient and thankfully we got him back. This was quite an important task for me, they really got me involved, supported me and I felt an integral part of the team and felt like I had a role.
Overall the hospital team was so welcoming. They all spoke good English. You need to put yourself out there, say hello, get involved where you can and they really respect and react to that by giving you more opportunities. The ED is a fast paced environment and tense at times and they really want to know you can hold your own, you definitely get more opportunities if you’re proactive.
There is not as much patient centred care as there is in the UK, they are busy and under-resourced. Speaking basic Swahili helps with patients, the language lessons were great. I used it often to reassure and comfort patients and it definitely came in useful.
I was only in Tanzania for three weeks - my biggest regret was not staying longer! Slipway is an area close to the house which has many bars and restaurants and is really lovely to go to after placement.
On my first weekend trip I went to some local islands that were close by which was great, it was so easy to get about. I didn’t get the chance to go to nearby Zanzibar - that is something I will be doing next time I go to Tanzania.
My other weekend was incredible - I went on Safari. It was absolutely amazing!
We stayed in an African version of Center Parcs - it was so much fun. We had an incredible driver from start to finish who really made the experience. We saw four of the Big Five - we were so blessed! To anyone going to Tanzania on placement I would say it is something everyone needs to do!
I graduated in October and am due to start my new job soon. I really think going overseas is going to help me.
I feel it has benefitted my communication skills, it has really boosted my confidence when having to deal with scenarios that I wasn’t necessarily expecting to come across - this is what I have to deal with all the time at work.
I feel so much calmer and more confident in my abilities and I know I’ll always be able to do my best. Putting myself into an unknown environment was daunting, but I did it, and I succeeded and I held my own. I put so many skills into practice that I learnt on my course and didn’t have the opportunity to practice in the UK.
Although the Tanzanian healthcare system has really limited resources compared to home, they offer the exact same care and do it well. A lot of the time you don’t have the equipment you’d be used to and sometimes the equipment you do have doesn’t work, so you’re always having to think on your feet and be creative and I’ve learnt so much from this.
To anyone considering going overseas I would say do it! Even if you don’t want to work overseas for your future career you will learn so much you can take home with you. Especially as a student or being newly qualified as I am now, I feel it’s so much more beneficial and you’re used to learning. I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made - the only bit of advice I would giveis to go as long as possible as three weeks was not enough for me!
I honestly think adding this experience to my CV is going to benefit me and I believe it will make me stand out against other applicants.
It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity - go for it!