Fourth-year nursing student, Madeline Nastaly, travelled to Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, in the summer of 2014/ 2015 to undertake a nursing placement in one of the cities busiest hospitals. With a strong interest in foreign healthcare and a love of travelling, working overseas was always on Madeline’s to-do list.
Working in healthcare overseas, and specifically in a developing country, has always been a real interest of mine. I knew it would be an eye-opening experience. Not to mention a great learning opportunity. It’s extremely different from anything you can experience domestically.
I choose to travel with Work the World as they offered a more personalised service and a chance to customise my overseas placement experience. Beyond this, travelling with WTW meant I was able to gain access to some of the best medical facilities and teaching practices in Dar es Salaam, which may have been difficult to achieve on my own during such a busy time at university.
I wanted to be able to get a much broader nursing experience, so being able to rotate my time between the paediatrics, orthopaedic trauma surgery and the Emergency Department was the perfect solution for me. I also got to spend a lot of my time in their resuscitation bays where the duties ranged from wound care, medication administration, airway management, manual ventilation and CPR. It was always busy and under-resourced. I witnessed conditions, which I had never seen before in my life, treated on a regular basis. You learn very quickly how to assess patients much more efficiently and overcome the language barrier.
Whilst on placement, I also had the opportunity to live and work in a rural village, which turned out to be the real highlight of my experience. Nestled at the foot of the Viduna Mountains, the village was staggeringly beautiful and the people equally so. All the locals were so friendly and welcoming! Looking back, working alongside the doctors in their local clinic was such an invaluable experience and one I will cherish eternally. I was able to gain a true understanding of what life is really like in a remote African village.
In the mornings, in clinic my duties would vary each day, from vaccination duties, child physical assessments and assessing patients with HIV. I had a lot of patient interaction with traditional Maasai women and their babies. My clinical skills were definitely challenged, but I am so much stronger for this experience. In the afternoons, I would take part in activities like meeting the village elders, cycling to local sugar plantations and swimming in waterfalls. I can’t imagine how I would have organised an experience like this without Work the World.
Being based in Dar es Salaam was so convenient. I was only a stones throw away from Zanzibar and its paradise beach, as well as some of Africa’s most beautiful savannah and big game safaris. Travelling through Africa after my elective finished up was just the icing on the cake. It’s astoundingly beautiful and such an amazing place. Everyone must experience it. Just go, you won’t regret it!
An experience like this changes you. It changes the way you see yourself, it changes the way you see healthcare and it especially changes you as a nurse. As challenging as it can be, I am now able to adapt as a nurse to my environment and essentially, provide better care for my patients. I was so humbled by the experience.