Africa was the gap year I never had, but managed to do everything (and more) that I would have wanted to do if I had gone on one. Africa was a place I had always wanted to go to, especially to help in the hospitals and what better way to do it than through Work the World where help was always at hand if it was needed! It was the best decision I have ever made and would not change any of it. It was perfect!
For the first part of my placement I was placed on the paediatric ward at a smaller hospital for 4 weeks. During my time on the ward I learnt so much which I have been able to bring back with me and have identified important skills needed in nursing.
I worked mainly alongside the doctors, but did spend some of my time with nurses. On my first day on the ward I was shocked to see how different it was compared to hospitals in England: there were a couple of children on each bed, each with their mother with them; sharps boxes were cardboard boxes on the floor; and infection control was non-existent. I saw firsthand how different the nursing skills were in comparison to England, and how the lack of resources in Africa compromised the health of the patients, some of which unfortunately died. I had never seen a patient die previously so although it was upsetting, I found that it helped to develop my nursing skills and made me emotionally stronger to deal with that situation. Seeing how parents are cared for after a child had died was also a shock, but I learnt so much from observing these situations.
For the second part of my placement I was placed on the Obstetrics/Gynaecology/Maternity wards for 3 weeks. These 3 weeks were the best part of my placement. On my first day on this ward, Alpha took me and introduced me to Sister Grace who was so lively and energetic. She was so encouraging and let you do so much. Even though I am doing children’s nursing, I was greatly involved in caring for the women and assisting in delivering babies. I even got to deliver babies totally on my own which was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
I found that the attitudes of the nurses was different to in England, but soon came to learn that this was their culture. Even so, the nursing staff were friendly.
I would recommend students do 2-3 weeks on different wards, particularly if you are going for a long time, as you’ll get to see various conditions on an extreme level. This is really interesting and definitely not something you get to see often back at home.
With regards to taking medical supplies, I would highly recommend that people take dressings as they don’t have them in the hospitals. Many of us regretted not taking them with us (mainly for severe burns).
I had the best 2 months of my life in Tanzania, and placement was incredible. I wish I was still there because I learnt so much which I will take with me throughout the rest of my training and into my career. If you are hesitating about it, don’t! Just go for it, it will be the best decision that you have ever made and you will make some friends for life!