My hope was to develop an understanding of the cultural and socioeconomic factors which influence nursing practices. I also wanted to develop my interpersonal and communication skills, which will enable me to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures accessing health and social care.
During my visit I had the opportunity to watch different procedures and clinics in the local health services. I was also able to practise to my own skills - I took vital signs of patients, I triaged patients and documented patient notes in A&E.
I learnt a lot of skills which are simple yet very effective, such as making a tourniquet out of rubber gloves. I worked under stressful conditions and I witnessed a variety of infectious diseases. My mentor taught me how to cannulate - a skill that my fellow students will be taught in few months - and I had the opportunity to put that new skill into practice. The acknowledgement of my input in the outpatients’ department developed my courage and, I believe, made me a valuable member of the team. I also supported the team who helped deliver twins at 4.30am during my time in village healthcare. I cannot forget the experience, especially without adequate resources in the village.
I embedded myself in the Takoradi Ghanian community and even learnt to speak the local language Fante. Through the valuable support of other students from the UK and overseas, I helped run a sport event at a local orphanage which helped with rebuilding part of the wall from the funds I raised. During my village healthcare experience in Princess town, I organised a widows’ event which included a health check, empowerment session and free lunch.
I took some RCN resources with me which were very useful at a student nurse event which I hosted. The nursing school was located within Effia Nkwanta Hospital where I had my placement. I held a session on gloves awareness, adapting resources from the recent RCN gloves awareness conference. I also donated some of my text books and copies of Nursing Standard for their library. Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital, where I do my clinical training, supported my trip by supplying some medical devices to help the low resource hospital. It was well received by the chief nursing officer who commented that the items came in handy for their regional quality inspection check.
There were obviously big differences between working in hospitals in Ghana and the UK. The hospital had limited resources and doctors had to make difficult decisions about treatment options that were both appropriate and available. Due to limited resources, there was often a cost for treatment and relatives would have to pay for this before treatment was given, often leading to poor outcomes for patients.
Based in the A&E department, I was amazed to see similarities in the way we triaged patients using a “TEWS” chart. But following the TEWS score, staff in Ghana used additional criteria called “determining factors” that could increase a patient’s score.
My time in Ghana was a very challenging, inspiring and rewarding experience and I was able to use the skills I’ve learnt in a completely different setting. The trip has changed my perception of everything. I was sad to leave the wonderful professionals from all over the world who I met on this trip.
I would definitely encourage others to undertake placements such as this to benefit from the clinical experience, weekend trips and language lessons. To have the opportunity to go abroad and see so much in such a short space of time that you would never get to see or do in the UK is one you’ll never forget. Not only does it give you experience, you will develop skills for employment, and become more independent, brave, open-minded and culturally aware. I would recommend keeping your own diary to keep a record of each day as the whole experience goes so quickly.