Sheffield Hallam University 2011

Nursing, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

I am a second year student nurse at Sheffield Hallam University, though my ambition is to become a midwife. When the opportunity came to plan an elective placement I jumped at the chance to spend it in an obstetrics and gynaecology department.

Whilst planning my elective placement I spoke to a student at my university who had travelled with WTW the previous year. After speaking with her I knew this placement in Dar es Salaam would be perfect for me! I felt as though all the hassle had been taken out of planning my elective as Work the World sorted everything, and if I had any queries they would only be a short phone call away. 

I arrived at the airport (24 hours late) & Mark was there to greet me with a huge smile, we had a taxi drive to the house and later that day he took me to the hospital on the dala dala bus for orientation.  Walking in to Amana hospital was a huge shocker. Even though I knew what to expect, it still really affected me how under resourced, basic and overcrowded it was.  I met with Sister Grace, she showed me around the wards and introduced me to the staff.

Working in the hospital was amazing, inspiring and emotional.  I found it heartbreaking at times as patients really suffer due to the severe lack of medical equipment and still births are much more common than here in the UK as there is no foetal monitoring during stages of labour.  Women deliver their babies with no pain relief, they all deliver in the same position, they have to bring in their own sheets, cord clamp etc and they may be slapped on the thigh if they make too much noise!  It really is an eye opener.  But this aside, this is a very small labour ward with just 12 beds delivering between 80  and 100 babies each day, and I would say the majority of them are healthy.

I was able to gain a lot of hands on experience during my placement.  I found being  friendly with the staff, being confident and putting myself forward and asking to do tasks enabled me to gain so much from my two week elective.  By my second week of placement I was taking the lead in delivering babies, filling in all the mothers' paperwork, observing breastfeeding and then transferring my patient to the post natal ward.  It was great as I felt I was doing the whole cycle of care with my patient. 

The Swahili lessons back at the house were invaluable as they gave me the confidence to speak to patients, I could greet them, introduce myself, ask how they are etc and this really helped to break down barriers and allow me to bond with the patients.  Sukuma (push) and Hema (pant) are two Swahili words I will never forget!  The staff really appreciate it when you make the effort to try and speak with them in Swahili.  The nurses and midwives do speak fairly good English and the doctors are fluent, so don't worry if you struggle with learning Swahili.

The house was lovely, it was always kept clean and the bedrooms are spacious and comfortable. There is no hot running water - but it's surprising how quickly you get used to cold showers.  The pool was fantastic, especially after a busy day on placement!  Rahema did a great job cooking for everyone; there was always a good variety of food, meat and vegetarian options and there is plenty of food in the fridge and cupboards to make snacks.  BBQ night on a Thursday is delicious and always great fun!!!  Mark and Alpha are lovely and always on hand if you need anything at all.

The people in the house were all so friendly and there is always someone around to talk to or go on trips with.  I went on Safari during my stay to Mikumi National Park, which was amazing - I would definitely recommend it.  We were picked up on Friday morning, camped for two nights, and returned to the house on Sunday afternoon.  The cost includes all meals and drinks so it is well worth it.  We also visited a local orphanage and took supplies of soap, toothpaste, pencils, paper and cooking ingredients. The children were really lovely, and all spoke really good English, one of the young girls helped me learn my Swahili numbers!   I spent my last day relaxing at 'White Sands' a lovely hotel a short taxi ride away, that was fantastic.

I raised about £800 before heading out to Dar, which I spent on basic medical equipment and supplies to donate to the Amana Hospital.  British Airways kindly let me take out an extra suitcase with the supplies in for no extra charge after I explained to them what I was doing. I took a pulse oximeter, manual BP monitors, over 1000 pairs of sterile gloves,  IV cannulas, giving sets, pen torches, catheters, oxygen tubing etc.   The staff were so grateful for these supplies, they couldn't have said thank you any more times!   If you do get chance to do any fundraising or take any basic supplies with you it will be greatly appreciated.  Also taking a few fob watches as gifts for the staff would be a kind gesture.

My two week nursing elective in Dar was amazing, I had the best time and am already planning another Work the World placement once I am qualified.

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