Booking my trip to Tanzania was the best decision I have ever made!
Stepping off that plane after over 17 hours of travel I began to second guess myself. It felt like a totally different world! I was so thankful that a member of the Work the World team was there to meet us at the arrivals gate. It meant I could really soak up what was going on around me, which was certainly different to back home in the UK. On the journey to the Work the World house I saw men and women walking at the sides of the roads and through the traffic, selling anything from fresh fruit and water to DVD’s and children’s toys. There was so much hustle and bustle, I didn’t know where to look first!
Upon arriving at the Work the World house, it finally sank in that this would be my home for the next 4 weeks. After a tour of the house and being shown our rooms, we were taken to have a welcome meal with our new housemates – a group of people that would quickly become my Dar family! Everyone was so friendly and quick to share their advice and experiences – it really made me feel welcome.
The next day was an eye-opener to Tanzanian life! Our day started with a trip to the hospital, but first we had to survive the dala dala! Imagine a minibus with 30+ people crammed in, and having to do “dala dala yoga” just to get on and off. At the hospital itself, we were shown around and introduced to the departments we would be working in. Even from this brief tour I could see that resources were lacking and I was in for a shock when starting placement. Despite this, the staff in every department were so happy and keen to meet us! After this, we were taken for some traditional Tanzanian food, given a tour of the local area and were able to exchange money and arrange local sim cards.
My first day on placement in the hospital was so nerve wracking. I’d packed my bag with all the essentials – gloves, aprons and alcohol hand gel, but I still felt totally unprepared. Walking into the hospital there were people everywhere, and many of the wards were overcrowded with patients being nursed in corridors and on mattresses on the floor. It was all so overwhelming. Fortunately, the sister on the ward was so excited to have me there and keen to get me involved with everything that was happening. I soon learnt that this placement would be unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The severe lack of resources meant that unfortunately the patients sometimes didn’t experience the best outcomes, but every single staff member did the best that they could with what they had. They were aware of these short falls and were so keen to ask questions, wanting to understand how healthcare worked within the UK. In fact, myself and some housemates became friendly with some of the Tanzanian nursing students and even attended one of their lectures! This was followed by a Q&A session where both sides were able to find out more about nursing and healthcare in the other country – something I found really beneficial to my practice.
Throughout my 4 weeks I spent time in internal medicine, mental health, paediatrics and the emergency department. I experienced many different things in each of these departments including spending time with terminally ill children, participating under supervision in resuscitation and ventilation, general ward duties and assisting with HIV, TB and methadone clinics. Each experience challenged me both professionally and personally. Some were very emotionally taxing and made me appreciate the healthcare back home.
After a hard day at placement, the best therapy was returning to the house and chatting to other housemates. We would chill out on the porch, sharing our stories and experiences and offering advice to each other. This was often followed by a swim in the pool or a meal out. Every Thursday there was a BBQ, which involved a lot of dancing, good food and trip to a local bar! We’d also spend a lot of time outside of placement at Slipway, drinking milkshakes, eating ice cream, having spa treatments or haggling for souvenirs with the locals! There was never a shortage of things to do in Dar, and the most helpful things were the guide books written by former housemates, recommending the best places to visit.
The one must when visiting Dar es Salaam is a trip to Zanzibar. The beautiful white sandy beaches are well worth the stomach churning ferry ride to the island! We met an amazing tour guide, Mr Alewei, who showed us around Stonetown, took us snorkelling and to Prison Island to see the giant tortoises. We also visited more local beaches in Dar, and even managed to spend some time at a local orphanage.
Overall, my experience in Dar was one of the best times of my life. It’s helped me to understand and appreciate the importance of our healthcare system back home, and has given me some truly life changing experiences. I’ve become more innovative in my own practice and made new friends for life, who I’ve seen since returning home.
I would 100% recommend the experience to anyone who is thinking of doing their elective in Tanzania. It may seem scary, but it’s truly amazing.