Travelling to Africa had always been a dream of mine. Work the World gave me the opportunity to explore and adventure, whilst developing my professional physiotherapy skills.
I chose Tanzania due to its beautiful coastal scenery, thriving city and healthcare system much different to my own.
I made the decision to take part in this elective placement at the end of my second year to help further develop my knowledge before knuckling down for my third year.
Upon my arrival in Tanzania, I was greeted at the airport by a member of the Work the World team, making me feel instantly at ease. I was then taken to the Work the World house where I was introduced to the rest of the team, who felt like family by the end of my trip. They were fantastic and looked after me really well.
The house itself was lovely and much more luxurious than I expected, with lounge facilities (a TV with Netflix!), dining area and even a pool! The food was great. We had a buffet breakfast and dinner every night, with a mixture of western dishes and local dishes. It really felt like a second home whilst I was there.
On my first official day in Tanzania, I had an orientation where a member of the Work the World team showed us the sites of the city and the hospital. We travelled using a Dala Dala (bus!), which was very different from our buses at home, but an experience nonetheless.
At the hospital, I was introduced to the physiotherapy team and shown around both the inpatient and outpatient departments.
After we returned to the house, we were greeted by our Swahili teacher. We had Swahili lessons once a week to help us communicate in both the hospital and community setting. I really enjoyed learning Swahili as it allowed me to integrate myself into the Tanzanian culture and communicate with patients in the hospital.
During my stay, we had a BBQ every Thursday where we tried local dishes. Afterwards, we had African dancing lessons which everyone got involved in and it was such a great laugh. We’d be sure to jump in the pool afterwards to cool off – African dancing isn’t as easy as it seems!
The hospital was enormous and initially very overwhelming, but it soon became a place where I could push myself out of my comfort zone and learn so many new skills.
I learnt so much from each department and it was heart-warming to see how passionate each physiotherapist was about their department
Throughout my placement I had the opportunity to experience a variety of different departments; trauma and orthopaedics, ITU, paediatrics and outpatients. I learnt so much from each department and it was heart-warming to see how passionate each physiotherapist was about their department, despite being drastically understaffed and underequipped.
Each physiotherapist was keen for me to learn and encouraged me to ask questions and gave me every opportunity to get involved. Not only did I learn from them, but they also wished to hear about the techniques I’m taught at home too.
Many of the treatment methods in outpatients were previously utilised in the NHS, such as heat and ice packs, massage and electrotherapy. However, unlike our NHS there was little advancement from this in Tanzania.
On the wards there was a significant difference from our wards back in the UK. The wards in Tanzania were hot and cramped, however, treatment went on and patients were attended to.
One memory in particular will stay with me forever. One young patient on the paediatric ward had been hit by a car, resulting in a traumatic brain injury, causing a loss of movement in their right arm and poor coordination in both lower limbs.
The physiotherapist allocated this patient to me, under their supervision. Throughout the placement I had the chance to assist with the assessment, care and treatment for this patient.
The treatment involved gait re-education, facilitation and visual stimulation. To which I tried my best to explain in Swahili. I watched this young patient progress throughout their rehabilitation. I was able to see this young child blossom, going from being bed bound to waving at me with both hands and taking their first steps with me on my final day.
It was truly an amazing, yet emotional, experience – one that will be with me for life. To know that I was able to help make a difference was, and still is, magical.
Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries are common in Tanzania due to poor road conditions and traffic regulations. This meant that I also observed lots of injuries such as femur, humerus and tibia fractures in both day one patients on the ward and outpatients recovering months down the line.
Throughout my placement, I was able to see the full progression that patients made throughout their rehabilitation allowing me to see the difference these teams made. I was humbled to see this and aspire to put this into practice back in the UK.
I found this extremely interesting and helpful to be able to fully assess the patient’s potential recovery for the future.
I had the opportunity to observe multiple surgeries, such as spinal discectomy, craniotomy and hydrocephalus shunt which are not common in the UK. The surgeons were extremely helpful and keen for me to learn, explaining the anatomy observed and the techniques utilised. I found this extremely interesting and helpful to be able to fully assess the patient’s potential recovery for the future.
My time in the hospital allowed me to not only develop professional skills but allowed me to gain experiences in life that I will hold with me forever.
On the weekends I was able to explore Tanzania. The Work the World team provided me with many suggestions of places to visit.
One weekend I visited Zanzibar, a beautiful island surrounded by white sand beaches and clear blue water. The trip was fantastic. I was able to snorkel for hours on end - seeing hundreds of colourful fish, starfish and coral, visit Prison Island to see the giant tortoises and explore Jozani forest to see monkeys.
Another weekend I was able to visit Mikumi National Park for a safari where I saw elephants, zebras, giraffes and warthogs.
I had the most amazing experience travelling around Tanzania and was able to meet such an amazing group of people and without them, my experience would not have been the same.
I highly recommend a Work the World elective placement!
I had the most amazing experience and felt supported at all times. The teams both in Tanzania and in the UK were extremely helpful throughout the trip and I hope to stay in contact with the friends I made out there.
I experienced so much in Tanzania and I hope that many others will continue to visit this special country to develop experiences of their own.