I am an Adult Nursing student at University of Gloucestershire. I had originally booked to go to The Philippines with Work the World in my first year, however due to Covid this was delayed.
A friend at uni had said she was booked to go to Ghana and I was really jealous as it sounded great. She explained that Ghanian culture was very family and friend orientated and this struck a chord with me as that is what I am all about.
When I got a call from Work the World to say Ghana was open this summer I jumped at the opportunity to go - it was like it was meant to be.
I was quite nervous about travelling in the new world we’re living in, but it actually went smoothly. It just took a little longer than normal going through airports, but that was to be expected.
Once we were through customs, a member of The Work the World team met us. They gave us food and water, and then we all got in in a private mini bus that took us down to Takoradi.
The journey was fascinating. The roads were busy, you could see a lot of people making a living by selling food and household goods at the side of the road. We then eventually arrived at the Work the World house, it looked fantastic! They gave us a tour, introduced us to the house team and then settled in.
The next day we went on our hospital orientation. As a group, the Work the World team took us to every single department, and introduced us to our supervisors. Having this tour around the hospital was certainly eye opening.
My first day on placement was great. The hospital staff were so welcoming and friendly. They always did their best to explain everything, and if they did not know what I was asking, they would find someone to help me.
My supervisors were incredible too. They spoke excellent English and were really keen to get to know me, my abilities and to get me involved. I felt so comfortable doing my placement in this hospital.
I was in Takoradi for six weeks, and spent my time rotating through A&E, orthopedic, medical and reproductive and child health.
I also asked if I could have a chance to spend time in both the NICU and the paediatric wards, and they were able to arrange this for me, which was a great experience. I wanted to do it all!
There were stark differences to an NHS hospital. It was clear they did the very best they could, they just didn’t have the resources to be able to do things like we do back home. They were resourceful, that’s for sure. And it certainly made me think about how we do things back home.
They did, however, do such a great job with the little they did have. They were also great at improvising — I even watched them use an NG tube for a tourniquet.
One of the more challenging experiences I had was seeing a man who had been beaten up and his body found outside the hospital. No one knew who he was other than that he had stolen something and had then been beaten. Sadly, he had died by the time he was noticed. A sticker was stuck onto his body with the date and time he had been found, but it was obvious there was going to be no way he would be identified.
When I got back to the house that day after placement, I spoke with the Work the World team in the house to explain I was struggling to understand why no effort would be made to find out his identity, and why the police weren’t involved.
As the Work the World team are all local, they obviously understand the culture and complexities that can be associated with this so well. It was good and reassuring to talk it through with the team and although hard to come to terms with, it made me think about the whole event differently.
Some patients would arrive at the hospital and would have no money whatsoever, which meant no treatment. Again, this was really hard to see and made me so grateful for the incredible NHS we have in the UK. At times, the cost of their treatment would be the equivalent of a few pounds, but they had no money, so couldn’t pay.
During my time here, I did help pay for some patients' treatments - it was hard not to. One patient was homeless and was walking around practically naked. He had no money to clothe himself, let alone pay for any treatment he may have needed.
Most patients didn’t speak English, but it was really easy to interact and communicate with them. The Fante lessons at the house were super useful, and after a couple of weeks on placement I started asking the language tutor for phrases I knew would specifically help me in the hospital. Some of these skills, like non-verbal communication, were really useful to take back home.
At the end of my placement, the Work the World team presented me with a Ghanaian dress that the hospital had asked them to give me. They had said they were so impressed with my attitude and loved having me at the hospital for 6 weeks. This is something I will hold onto forever.
My time outside of the hospital was great. Ghana is a beautiful country and I enjoyed every minute of it. From beach visits to going on safari, I made memories that will last a lifetime. In fact, one of the things I loved the most about my whole experience was feeling young again!
One other thing that will last a lifetime are the new friends I made. Staying in the Work the World house was fantastic as I got to meet so many new people who are now friends for life. Most of them were younger, but that was no barrier. We had so much fun, living in the house with them was a highlight.
I would love to go somewhere else to do a placement abroad like this once I’ve qualified. This experience really was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It does cost money, but it feels like a ‘money can’t buy’ experience. Everyone wants to hear my stories, I’ve made memories, and friends that I’ll treasure forever. I feel honoured.
I feel Ghana has stolen a piece of my heart and I would love to return one day with my son and fiance. I loved the whole experience of it and cannot recommend it enough.