In August 2018, I travelled to Cape Coast in Ghana to work at the University of Cape Coast Hospital. I had previously visited the country aged 16 under the supervision of a well-known global volunteer organisation. This time I organised my placement through a local NGO, ‘West African Health and Education Foundation*, in order to support the community more directly.
Before departing, I was slightly apprehensive about joining a new team and their working system. However, these concerns quickly disappeared as the nurses and doctors were very welcoming. I spent 3 weeks divided equally between the accident and emergency, children and labour wards. The staff were keen to involve me in nursing duties and to teach me new techniques and procedures. They were equally enthusiastic to learn about how things were run in the UK. I really appreciated the opportunities to get involved in procedures such as setting up drips and executing malaria and blood tests. I was also allowed into the operating theatre to witness my first caesarean section and I felt privileged to be the second person, after the surgeon, to hold a gorgeous new born. The highlight of my trip was joining an outreach programme which provided medical checks to a rural community affected by leprosy. Here my wound dressing skills practised during my second year placement in Edinburgh enabled me to be a very effective team member.
Ghana is a safe and beautiful country and I enjoyed my free time. I visited the canopy walk in Kakum National Park, a popular surfing spot called Busua Beach and the capital city Accra. Here I was lucky enough to enjoy an annual festival celebrating music, arts and dance. Socialising is very easy in Cape Coast with friendly locals and a fair sized international community of volunteers eager to share experiences and swap tips. At the end of my stay I was sad to say goodbye to this beautiful region with its laid-back vibe and welcoming people.
Overall this experience has been an extremely positive one. I felt that I contributed effectively using my current nursing skills and developed new ones whilst I was there. I learnt about tropical diseases such as malaria and leprosy and I witnessed the workings of a different health system. The life expectancy in Ghana is considerably lower than in the UK. There is no National Health System and despite the general poverty, payment is demanded for everything, which limits healthcare for much of the population. Investment is scarce too, for example, 29 million Ghanaians share just 55 ambulances! This journey has strengthened my desire to join an international medical organisation upon graduation and I am very grateful to the University of Edinburgh and the Go Abroad Scheme for giving me the opportunity to travel to Ghana on this unforgettable trip.
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