I always knew that I wanted to do my elective abroad, so when I heard about Work the World it seemed like the perfect company to use to help me organise my placement. I’d never been to Africa before, so I was excited to be able to explore a new continent!
When I arrived in Zambia, I immediately felt welcomed by our Programme Manager who met us at the airport. I had met some other healthcare students on the plane that were also going to the programme on an elective which made me even more excited to get to the Work the World house and meet everyone else.
When I arrived at the house to meet the full Work the World team, any of the worries that I’d had disappeared as I was made to feel so welcome.
We had a briefing with the team from the house where they addressed any questions that we had and told us about the local area and the hospital. Within the first 24 hours of being in the country we were given a full orientation of the local area, including the city and markets, as well as being shown around the hospital. This helped get rid of any nerves I had about starting my first day of placement at the hospital.
The team back in the UK had explained what I was going to be doing for the first 24 hours of my placement before I had left so I had more of an idea of what to expect which really helped. They also helped me to prepare for my trip in terms of guidance on what I needed to pack so I didn’t forget anything!
Living in a house with lots of different health care students was so much fun, especially after placement and on the weekends. I have made some lifelong friends from all over the world that I will now stay in contact with in the future.
In the time leading up to my placement, I got the chance to express that I wanted to gain some more experience in paediatric physiotherapy. So when Work the World confirmed that I would spend the first half of my placement in paediatrics, I could not have been happier!
The first 2 weeks were definitely the highlight of my placement as I got to work with such a wide range of interesting conditions that would be rarely seen in the UK such as Spinal TB and Polio. Very progressed cases of spina bifida and hydrocephalus were very commonly seen when I was working on the general paediatric wards. My role was to assess their milestones, alertness and the movement available at their joints.
During my time working with paediatrics, I would see the same patients up to 3 times a week which meant that I developed a good relationship with the families too. I learnt so much from the patients and families that I was involved in treating. I found that they were so willing to share their stories with me and were more than happy to answer my questions about their culture too. They were also very interested in learning from me about the UK. I was amazed with how good their English was which made communicating with most patients and families very easy.
On Fridays, I spent my time in the club foot clinic. I had never seen this condition before so I really enjoyed being a part of this clinic and I even got to be hands on. I got the chance to assess the babies and then help with casting them in POP.
When I was working in the main adult hospital for the 2nd half of my placement I found that my practical skills developed the most. The outpatient department was set up to have two main rooms with the focus of treatment being heavily on manual therapy and electrotherapy – this is the main difference that I found between Zambia and the UK.
Almost every patient that came in would have short wave therapy, ultrasound or interferential treatment.
I even got to spend some time on the ICU which was so eye opening to see how they treat such sick patients with such limited resources. They were using latex gloves filled with water underneath patients heals to prevent pressure sores!
I did find it difficult to see patients having generally poor prognoses due to the lack of resources and provisions in place, especially when I was on the trauma ward. Seeing young male patients that had complete spinal cord lesions, unable to ever walk again but with no social system in place for them to be able to cope individually at home.
On our second weekend, 6 of the girls from the house all travelled down to Livingstone. We had the most action packed weekend, from seeing the Victoria Falls, travelling over the border to Botswana for safari, white water rafting down the mighty Zambezi river and going on a sunset cruise upstream from the falls.
It was probably the best weekend of my life and I was completely blown away after seeing the Victoria Falls! Although, a highlight for me was definitely getting so close to so many elephants and even seeing the lions whilst on safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana. This for me, made my whole trip completely unforgettable!
On the other weekends we would visit the local markets, go to the botanical gardens or sit by the pool at the house.
My advice to other students would be to always remain open minded and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, the staff are more than happy to explain everything to you. The more you ask, the more you will learn during your time on placement.
If you’re thinking about going on a placement abroad, I couldn’t recommend it enough! It opens your eyes to a world wider than the NHS or your home health service, you learn so much about different cultures and Work the World guide you through it, every step of the way.
I will never ever take for granted the amazing health care service that we have in the UK, after seeing the system in Zambia. There is limited resources in the hospital, and few regulations but its humbling to see just how hard the staff work with what they have to deliver the best care they can, and their knowledge is just fantastic.