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Medical Internships in Ghana - Takoradi
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Medical Internships in Ghana - Takoradi

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Ghana was probably the best thing I have ever done

My preparation for my elective in Ghana started in a cold February. I was bored and it was a rainy Exeter day so I thought I would cheer myself up by organizing my elective. Now, first things first, I am a very lazy person. Being the lazy and slightly impulsive person I am, I simply made myself a cup of tea and within a few clicks chose Ghana and put my deposit down!

Meanwhile, my friends were all frantically emailing hospitals in faraway lands and getting infuriated and impatient with the lack of response and the number of hoops they had to jump through.

The Work the World house is lovely and the staff are amazing. It would not have been the same without them, especially at the Wednesday night BBQs where there is more dancing than you can shake a Fufu stick at (Google this). If you are keen for a little bit of lash and banter (does everyone call it that or is it an Exeter thing?!) then there is a bar just down the hill where you can get a round of drinks for about £1.50. There are also a couple of beautifully air conditioned bars where you can play pool in the evening.

Placement is what you make of it - an open mind is essential. You will not change the system, and while you may not save any lives, but you can be very helpful. My advice would be to spend at least two weeks in each placement. For the first few days observe, get the feel of it and then jump in. Be assertive and offer to do things for the staff and they will eventually see you as a helpful member of the team and really value your input. There was a case that I got very involved with and managed to influence her care for the better by being persistent and going out of my way to carry out full neurological examinations before placement and then presenting my findings to the doctors. They were certain that she was in a deep coma. After a few days I was able to convince them that she could follow my fingers and was aware of what was going on. She made good progress and was discharged before I left Ghana.

Undertaking an elective in Ghana was probably the best thing I have ever done. I met so many awesome people (there is talk of a reunion), became more assertive and learnt about the power of persistence. If you are the kind of person who thrives off being receptive and open to new things, then this is perfect for you. Plus, you can laugh at your mates back home as they are being swabbed for MRSA and have piles of paperwork to do for their electives!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

I made some fantastic friends

Since my return from Ghana life is certainly a lot quieter. I can walk down the streets without every child I pass running towards me shouting 'Obruni! Obruni!' (white person), desperate to talk and play. When I need a taxi I have to phone or go out of my way to stop one in the street after eight weeks of every taxi passing you beeping its horn and pulling over, regardless of whether you needed a taxi or not. These are just a few examples of the welcoming and friendly personalities of the Ghanaian people and one of the things I miss greatly.

I travelled on my elective with three friends from Dundee and we were based in Takoradi, the capital of the Western region of Ghana and the fourth largest city in the country. During my six-week placement in the Hospital, I shared my time between the Pediatric department, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Accident and Emergency, in which I feel I had the opportunity to experience different aspects of the Ghanaian Health Service.

The Pediatric ward was a busy ward with a large nursing staff and a Consultant. The Consultant had a fantastic rapport with the children and provided the patients with a great deal of health advice, even if sometimes a little brutally. He enjoyed teaching students and provided fantastic teaching on his ward rounds, allowing us to take histories and perform many examinations. Following the ward round, he would take us to see interesting neonatal cases or would provide us with some teaching, frequently on X-Rays and common pediatric health problems such as malaria, sickle cell disease and glomerulonephritis.

The first morning of ward rounds in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department was quite a shock to the system. The wards were hot and there were beds and mattresses in any possible free area of floor. Mums and baby would be sharing a mattress on the ground that would have doors opening and knocking onto it.

In the post-natal wards, patients who had lost their child would be in beds beside those who had delivered healthy babies. I came across five patients who had lost their child as a result of eclampsia. This was commonly not picked up at an earlier stage as many patients are late bookers and therefore do not receive adequate antenatal care due to financial reasons. All patients in labor were in the labor ward. We spent some time here helping to monitor the patients; timing contractions, performing vaginal examinations and listening for the fetal heart rate and documented our findings on a partogram. When due to deliver, the patient was made to walk out of the ward, down the corridor into the delivery room. Whilst in delivery, patients are not allowed to scream or make any noise as they believe this is bad for the baby. If a patient makes too much noise a nurse is usually at her side shouting at her or hitting her, ordering her to stop. But always remember, you’re here to observe and learn, not judge.

Caesarean sections were performed very similar to at home, although it was common practice for the anesthetist to be unable to perform epidural anesthesia on the patient due to lack of experience and as a result would have to use general anesthesia. There would usually not be enough anesthesia and as a result the mother would often wake up during the procedure.

The most eye opening experience was definitely the two weeks I spent in A&E. The one case which most demonstrates our different cultures was an incident in which a 25-year-old male was taken into hospital covered head to toe in petrol, with many cuts and bruises. It turned out that he had been caught stealing and locals that had caught him, beaten him and tried to set him alight. The police arrived at the scene and had taken him into the hospital. When a member of staff was explaining to us the situation, they made a comment that he had 'unfortunately been saved by the police'. When we asked further about this it was explained to us how stealing was so badly looked upon that they would not think twice of someone who tried to kill someone they caught stealing. Due to it being such a rare occasion that a thief escaped an event like this the press showed up at the hospital. The patient was thrown in a shower naked to clean the petrol off, while reporters took photos of him. We were told it was likely he would be put in jail for about 20 years.

Other frequent presentations in the Accident and Emergency Department included strokes, which were difficult to manage as there was no CT scanner.

As Ghana does not have a structured General Practitioner service, a large number of illnesses present to the accident and emergency department. It can therefore be exceptionally busy with minor cases when an emergency presents. Unfortunately, there is no triaging service and often emergency cases are not fast tracked to the front. An example of this is when a 20-year-old male nursing student was carried into the department by a group of his friends with excruciating groin pain. The doctor in charge was pre-occupied with a minor case of a child with a sore throat and did not make any effort to see the emergency patient. We took a history from the patient and examined him and were pretty confident that he was suffering from testicular torsion yet even when we had passed this message onto the doctor he made no effort to hurry. Eventually he came out and said that he was going to arrange an ultrasound scan, yet started to see more patients before arranging this. The patient was diagnosed as having testicular cancer, and fortunately received surgical treatment without further complications despite the delay in diagnosis.

One male patient presented who had fallen onto lead poles at work. One pole had pierced his left lung and another one had pierced the right side of his abdomen. In Accident and Emergency, the only treatment this patient received was IV saline, whilst he was left in a room on his own perched off the side of a bed whilst waiting for a theatre space.

Other frequent presentations to the accident and emergency department included strokes, which were difficult to manage as there was no CT scanner and therefore it was hard to determine whether it was the result of an infarct or a hemorrhage. In order to make a decision, medical staff had to rely strongly on clinical findings.

Road traffic accidents were also common place, which is not surprising given the carnage we witnessed on the roads with speeding cars, frequently filled with up to 10 people and cars constantly pulling in front of each other. Compound fractures were frequent presentations of road traffic accidents, treatment of which would be manipulation without any sedation or pain relief, followed by splinting of the fracture until a space was available in theatre.

Travelling with Work the World gave me the opportunity of travelling to a developing country with the benefit of having comfortable accommodation, a number of fellow students, great food and many points of contact so that I always felt safe. The Takoradi house could accommodate up to 16 people, so there was always plenty of people in the house in which I made some fantastic friends.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I couldn’t have had a better time on my elective

For my medical elective I chose to go to Ghana as I’d always wanted to go to Africa, and as a female going by myself I wanted to go somewhere friendly and safe. The Work the World package was ideal for me, as all aspects of the placement were organized for me, and I made lots of new friends in the Work the World house.

Arriving in Ghana was quite an experience but a member of staff was ready and waiting at the other end, as promised, ready to welcome me with a big hug and look after me! My flight was quite late, so I was taken to a hotel in Accra for the night, and the next day the Assistant Program Manager and I made the journey to Takoradi.

The Work the World team gave me my orientation on the first day there, taking me to the bank to change money and generally showing me around the city. Takoradi itself feels like ‘real Ghana’ – it’s a lot less Western than the bigger cities of Accra and Kumasi, and the people are incredibly warm and friendly to the visiting ‘Obruni’ (white man).

It didn’t take long for the famous Work the World house to feel like home, especially with the caterer Ophelia looking after us all – not only was she an incredible cook, but she was also very kind and caring, going out of her way to make sure we all had everything we needed.

I worked at the main hospital in Takoradi, for 8 weeks, working in Medical, Surgical and A&E. I think it was good to work in several different areas as it really gave me a feel for how the hospital was run and the differences between the specialties. In Ghana you will see a lot of patients with malaria, typhoid and TB, which can be quite rare in the West, and patients with very advanced disease and clinical signs that you’d never get to see back home. As a final year student I was given quite a lot of responsibility when I requested it, particularly on the surgical wards where they basically let me be the house officer, doing bloods and writing notes and seeing my own patients in the clinics. In A&E I did a night shift with two of my friends, and as a team of doctors and nurses it worked really well. Some days were tougher than others in the hospital as sometimes the Ghanaian healthcare system could be frustrating, but it was really nice knowing that after a long day I had a great group of friends waiting in the house to talk through it all. The Work the World team out in Ghana were also incredibly supportive, and made themselves available for any problems we encountered.

The friends I made out in Ghana were really up for going travelling and exploring the country at the weekends. We went to some truly beautiful places, such as the beach resort of Butre to the west of Takoradi, and Lake Bosumtwi near the city of Kumasi. We also took a couple of days off placement and went for a longer trip, spending four days travelling to and from the Volta region where we climbed Mount Afadjato, Ghana’s highest mountain!

It was so helpful having everything organized for me especially as my elective came straight after my finals, and Work the World even provided a country information pack with all the information I could possibly need on getting a visa, how to take my money, essential kit list, etc. They were also at the other end of the phone for any last-minute questions or queries. As a female going on elective alone, this was the perfect way to do it, and I highly recommend going as an individual – it’s a lot easier to make friends when you don’t come as a group!

I couldn’t have had a better time on my elective, and I would recommend Work the World to anyone wanting to do a healthcare placement in Africa.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

It is a trip of a lifetime!

I always knew I wanted to go to Africa for my elective, but deciding where exactly took some time. I decided early on that I was going to go with a company as I was travelling by myself and I had never been travelling before.

During my research I stumbled across Work the World and after chatting through their destinations I went for Ghana. From the word go Work the World were really helpful, answering any questions I had and giving me plenty of tips and advice for when I arrived. I flew with British Airways as it was a direct flight from London to Accra (I would highly recommend doing this!)

ARRIVING AND SETTLING IN

When I arrived in Ghana it was late and hot and the airport was very busy, but the Assistant Program Manager was there waiting for me, and instantly made me feel very welcome! Five of us arrived that evening and we stayed in Accra and sampled our first Ghanaian cuisine (Jollof rice - tasty!). The next morning, we took the 4-hour bus ride to Takoradi giving us a chance to soak up the country we would be calling home for the next few weeks. On arrival we were shown round the work the world house by the house staff. Ophelia, the in-house caterer, cooked the whole house breakfast and dinner and her cooking is AMAZING. If you are vegetarian or if you don't like something, she will cater for you without a problem. My personal favorite was ground nut soup with rice balls. There is also a BBQ held every Thursday night which is hilarious - be prepared to dance like an idiot to some funky tunes!

On the Monday we were all given an orientation around the hospital and town. In town we were able to exchange money and buy sim cards, plus get some material to get African dresses made. The Assistant Program Manager will show you where everything is, and if there is anything else you need throughout he can show you where to go and how much to pay. Overall I would say it takes about a week to get fully settled in and acclimatized.

PLACEMENT

I did 6 weeks of pediatrics and neonatal intensive care at the regional hospital. The first thing that you notice in the hospital is the heat, but you do get used to it - I promise! The supervisors are very friendly and keen to get you as involved as you want to be. The more questions you ask the more you get out of it! I was usually in from 8.30am to 2pm which left my afternoons free to go to town or to the beach. The key thing to remember in the hospital is to learn and not judge – attitudes and treatment lines can be very different in Ghana, so it's important to go with an open mind to get the most out of it.

VILLAGE EXPERIENCE

I spent my last week in Akwidaa on the Village Healthcare Experience. I was on my own for the week, with no electricity or running water, but I found this to be no problem at all! The host family I stayed with were very welcoming and I was always busy. I would spend my mornings in the local health center where I practically ran the clinic, and in the afternoons we went to local tourist spots such as Green Turtle Lodge beach resort (Google image search this!). I also got to do health checks in the local school and go on outreach to the nearby village to give vaccinations. This was the best week of my time in Ghana - I would recommend it to everyone!

TRAVELLING AND USEFUL TIPS

During my 6 weeks I did lots of travelling including Kakum National Park, Cape Coast, Wli Falls, Busa, Ellis Hideout Lodge and ‘Cape 3 Points’. The waterfalls were my personal favorite! There is a book in the house where previous students have written what is good (and not so good) to do, how to do it and how to get there. The house staff are also indispensable when it comes to travel information, too.
Things that were invaluable were a money belt and a head torch. Also it's hard to get sun screen or insect repellent in Ghana, so bring some with you. There is spare sun screen left by previous students in the house, but everyone always runs out of repellent so bring lots!

I thoroughly enjoyed my 7 weeks in Ghana and I wish I never had to leave. I felt perfectly safe going on my own and I never had any problems with unwanted attention in Ghana. Everyone I met was very friendly and helpful and I would recommend it to anyone to go - it is a trip of a lifetime!