Before I left the UK for Dar es Salaam (Dar) to commence my four week placement on General Medicine and Accident and Emergency I had many phone calls from the Work the World team to ensure my trip was as organised as possible. So as I left the UK I was confident I had all the right documents and briefing on what to expect (from uniform in placement to sunscreen) this I imagine would not be the case if organising an overseas placement independently.
On arriving in Dar, weary from the travelling I was soon thrown into the hustle and bustle of an African city airport, including a power cut whilst going through passport control. This lasted thirty minutes, making identifying my luggage from hundreds of other people's tricky. Walking out of the arrivals area I was greeted by a man named Baptista with a huge smile. His bright Work the World t-shirt instantly put me at ease. I travelled to the Work the World house, the journey was completely different to anything I've ever experienced; from people selling the most unusual things by the side of the road to the total absence of traffic lights and road markings. This quickly became the norm and by the end of my placement I loved the fast pace of the traffic and the chaotic difference to the UK.
Orientation to the house, hospital and surrounding area took place that evening and the following day. This was carried out by Baptista and another Work the Worlder named Rashid. The orientation took place with small groups of people who had just arrived at the house; this made it less formal and gave us all a chance to strike up friendships as we were all in the same position of being new people to the house.
The hospital I worked in was a large, government teaching hospital; a referral hospital so a lot of people from surrounding areas came here if they needed treatment that their local hospital could not provide. It was a short dala-dala (mini bus) ride away and this was explained to us during the orientation. The hospital was very busy and was split into various buildings. My first two weeks were spent on a general medicine ward, this was very interesting as not only did I see exacerbations of conditions that are less prevalent in the UK, such as; malaria and HIV but I also had an insight into how conditions that are prevalent in the UK are treated in a developing country, conditions such as; CVA's and UTI's. During my time on this ward I was usually the only nurse taking part in the daily ward round, this gave me great responsibility for documenting each patient's plan of care and ensuring this is carried out.
For my last two weeks in Dar I worked in Accident and Emergency which is a new concept to Tanzanian healthcare and the unit had only just been opened. It is a westernised department compared to the other wards in this hospital and during my time there I assisted in a cardiac arrest, catheterisation and intubation. My time here was a lot more hands-on and I was able to practice my clinical skills under supervision and also observe procedures I had not experience so far in my training.
When I wasn't in placement everyone in the house was very friendly and they are many things you can do. Every Thursday a barbeque was cooked around the pool side where everyone socialised. This was a great way of meeting and talking to people in the house. During my weekends off I went with a group of people to an orphanage to give toys to the children and I also went on a safari with ten other house mates which I recommend to anyone travelling to Tanzania. Also a group of us travelled to an island just off the mainland called Zanzibar. Here we travelled around the island over a weekend and saw many of the sights such as seeing and feeding wild tortoises that were about one hundred and eighty five years old, exploring Stone Town- the capital, snorkelling over a coral reef, swimming with wild dolphins and staying up all night at a full moon party.
The team in the Work the World house were all friendly and helpful, the food cooked by Reheema and helped by Akiba was delicious and fussy eaters need not worry- if you don't like the food, alternatives are available. Being able to speak a small amount of Swahili is important and a teacher named Johnson came three times a week to help and this really enabled us to get the most out of our time in Tanzania. The house its self is perfect, it is in an ideal location, close to a beach and other amenities such as; a supermarket, restaurants, bars, and shopping centres. The bedrooms within the house are either situated inside the main building or in smaller buildings within the perimeter fence of the house which is manned by twenty four hour security guards for peace of mind. Also, the house has its own swimming pool and sunbathing is a must!
My time in Dar was life changing for me as it has made me appreciate the fantastic health care available to people in the UK compared to Tanzania, I think this and the opportunities I had during my placement in Tanzania will consequently improve my nursing skills and my outlook for the rest of my nursing career. I would recommend this experience to anyone looking for a different clinical placement to what is available within the UK.