After reading through the Work the World website and reviews, I decided to go to Zambia. I don’t really know why I chose Zambia, it just stood out to me and I had never been to Africa! I do not regret my choice for a second! Work the world were great at tailoring my placement. I expressed an interest on working in Paediatrics, so they enabled me to spend 2 weeks in the Paediatric hospital.
From the moment I arrived at the Work the World house, I felt at home. The team gave us a tour on arrival, which meant that we felt free to access whatever we needed within the house. I never felt uncomfortable, or far away from home within the house.
The Teaching Hospital I was based in was full of character and I quickly fell in love with the bustle of the hallways and the color of Zambian chitenge everywhere (colorful Zambian material).
I entered the experience expecting Physiotherapy treatments to be very different from back home, however I quickly realised that the treatments we use are in fact very much universal! However, in Zambia, quite often the physio’s have to improvise due to the lack of equipment or their treatments are those that are older, with not as much evidence to support them. Nevertheless, they always make do with what they have, and achieve good results. During my time in Paediatrics, I was able to assess and treat multiple kids with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and hydrocephalus. It always astounded me the number of kids with hydrocephalus. A highlight of my time in Paediatrics, was watching the physio do some exercises with a boy who had come out of ICU and was recovering from Tetanus, all because he popped a pimple with a needle. It was amazing to see his determination to recover, all because he wanted to return to school. Another highlight was being taken to Apters, an organisation nearby that makes special chairs, standing frames, walking bars and walkers from recycled cardboard for children with delayed development.
During my time in the adult hospital, I spent most my time in the outpatient’s department. I was able to work with a stroke patient and a patient with a spinal cord injury, it was great to be able to work with them several times, as most the patients attended the clinic 2-3 times a week. I was also able to spend my mornings in ICU. I spent most my time with a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. It was very confronting to see the pressure sores all over her body from such a long time in ICU. I got very excited on my last day, because she was getting her tracheostomy. She had waited for this for so long, and in the meantime had fractured her jaw from biting her ventilator tube. I also spent a bit of time with a man with meningitis who was previously a professor at the hospital.
Another highlight from my time at the hospital was being invited to watch neurosurgery! I got to watch a Ventriculo-peritoneal shunt being placed in a young boy with hydrocephalus. It was such a good experience.
One of the best things about my experience in Zambia, was learning how to use the local bus system. It never failed to provide entertainment and brought a totally different experience each and every day. If you are the type of person that loves a bit of an adventure, I highly recommend!
The weekends in Zambia were nothing short of amazing! The first weekend we travelled to Kafue National Park. It was just amazing to relax after a busy week in the beautiful African nature and see spectacular wildlife. A highlight was seeing 5 elephants cross the river connected tail to trunk with the sun setting behind. Picture perfect!
The next weekend we travelled to Livingstone. This weekend was action packed, consisting of white-water rafting, a sunset cruise, seeing The Victoria falls and bungee jumping! I definitely got my fair share of adrenaline over the weekend. The final weekend I hung around Lusaka to say goodbye to most my housemates who were leaving, it was definitely sad to say goodbye to my housemates I had gotten to know so well.
It’s so hard to pick one thing that will stick with me forever. I just absolutely fell in love with the Zambian people and culture, the hospital routine and the adventurous weekends. All these things together just made the experience so worthwhile. The whole Work the World team were just amazing, and I have made friendships that I will cherish forever.
If I could give 2 pieces of advice to anyone who might be considering doing a placement overseas.
1. DO IT!
2. Go with the flow and be flexible. The culture and practices at the hospital will be different to what you are used to and you need to accept that. It’s not good/bad or right/wrong, it’s just different. You will have the best time if you consciously choose to not be upset or bothered when things are different from what you are used to.