I always wanted to travel somewhere out of my comfort zone and after reading the website reviews from previous students and knowing the exciting things I could do there, I decided that Zambia would be the best option for me.
I travelled on my own to complete this physiotherapy elective, which was quite nerve-wrecking for me as this was the furthest I had ever travelled, and the first time I had travelled on my own.
I instantly felt at ease when I met other girls at the airport and the Work the World staff who were waiting for us. Once we arrived at the house, I felt so welcome, you become one big family with the people you live with.
The physiotherapy students always travelled to and from placement together. My first day of placement felt like a first day of placement at home in the UK. I did not know what to expect but I was excited to see what I would be doing
During this elective placement I was fortunate to be based in Paediatrics in the Children’s Hospital primarily in the Cerebral Palsy Outpatient Clinic, Surgical Ward and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Additionally, I had opportunities to attend adult Prosthetics Clinics.
I was exposed to conditions I had not seen previously in the UK and observed a way of working life that you would not see within the NHS. The hospital equipment was either broken and/or very outdated, from oxygen outlets not working to broken beds and wheelchairs. Despite the lack of modern equipment that worked, the knowledge of the physiotherapists was exceptional and combined with our thoughts we devised versatile treatment plans.
One memorable case was a child who had Cerebral Palsy who I worked with a lot throughout my elective. Although this is not necessarily a new pathology to me, it gave me the opportunity to develop in other ways, for example communication with a young child who did not speak English, making the treatment patient centred so she enjoyed it and it still targeted her rehabilitation needs. It was very inspiring to see how independent she was at such a young age.
When we were not on placement, we were creating even more memories. We travelled to Livingstone where we swam in Devil’s Pool, ziplined across the river connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe and I even jumped off the edge bridge connecting the two together. This weekend was definitely one of the best weekends of my life!
I took the opportunity to fully immerse myself into the culture of Zambian life and attended church with one of the Physio’s I worked with day in, day out. I felt honoured to experience this aspect of her life alongside her. There was lots of beautiful singing and dancing. I had a great time.
Another highlight for me was visiting the village compounds. We were invited into family homes to sing and dance and chat to all the family members. This opened my eyes to how much I took for granted at home prior to travelling to Zambia. The children there filled my heart with so much love! They were always smiling and so happy despite not having much at all. Each and every person was truly inspiring.
If that was not enough excitement, I went to an elephant nursery, a cinema (where we may have gate-crashed a movie premiere by accident!), Sunday markets and Chaminuka Game Reserve.
My gratitude for the National Health Service is at a supreme level. This elective helped me uncover a newfound confidence in myself, a wider perspective and new appreciation for healthcare, realising how much I took for granted.
I personally feel I have grown as a person and developed more confidence in my ability to adapt and show initiative in a new and unfamiliar environment, for example using water filled gloves as pressure cushions and using papier mache to create specialised chairs for children with neurological deficits.
If anyone is considering completing an overseas elective, I say do it! You will not get this experience anywhere else and I have made friends for a lifetime!