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'Equipment and funds were limited, so it was essential to be resourceful'

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Student nurse Genevieve recalls her experience of a four-week nursing placement in Ghana

My nursing elective was with the Dream Big Ghana NGO, based in the Volta region of Ghana. During the four-week placement, I spent two weeks in a community health centre and two weeks at the local district hospital in the small town of Keta. 

Genevieve Elliott

Genevieve Elliott

Genevieve Elliott

I had a choice of the wards at the hospital where I would work as a student nurse. Thus, I decided to spend a series of days in the accident and emergency ward, which I greatly enjoyed, acting as the in-between person facilitating the patient’s journey from first aid to a hospital admission. 

In the Ghanaian hospital, equipment and funds were limited, so it was essential to be resourceful. I found it a challenge to treat patients in such severe conditions but valued recognising how our care directly improved their state so rapidly. 

On my final day at Keta Hospital, I decided to visit the maternity ward. I had undertaken my mother-and-baby placement in the UK, but had never witnessed a birth. In contrast, in the duration of three hours I assisted in delivering three live births at the Keta maternity ward. In total that morning four live births and three episiotomies took place. The Ghanaian midwife allowed me to get stuck in, including clamping the babies’ cords and supporting the mothers.

During the placement, I stayed at the stunning Meet Me There African Home Lodge, which is the base for the Dream Big Ghana NGO. The NGO’s mission is three-fold: to improve education, sanitation and development. Hence, alongside my clinical placement, I had the opportunity to help with the other initiatives of Dream Big Ghana. 

Only 15% of Ghanaian citizens have access to sanitary toilets. So, the NGO builds compost toilets for the community, successfully improving hygiene, preserving dignity for users and reducing the rate of gastrointestinal infections. 

I had contributed to raising some funds for the NGO the previous year, primarily by running the Nottingham Ikano Robin Hood Half Marathon with a team from my School of Nursing. Consequently, during my first weekend in Ghana, I had the honour of attending the unveiling of a compost toilet funded by the University of Nottingham. 

Prior to arriving at the lodge, I was nervous that it would be rather naïve to go on a placement to Ghana with no knowledge of how tough people’s lives are in comparison to mine. 

Indeed, I was apprehensive about meeting the nurses and other Ghanaians who might be sensitive because I have had luxuries (and necessities) that are simply not available to the normal citizen in Ghana. On the contrary, all the Ghanaians I encountered on the placement were welcoming to me and my fellow Nottingham student nurses. 

When walking to the clinic in the mornings, the school children would greet us. Also, the staff at Meet Me There was so hospitable and friendly that we sincerely felt a part of the team, even being invited to attend staff meetings. As a result, I decided to engage in the NGO’s other schemes, for instance, volunteering for a few days at the community learning centre. 

Similarly, I was invited to travel to the local village to coach football with the local children (and donate some sports equipment). Overall, I had a fantastic elective placement with Dream Big Ghana because of the choice and opportunity of activities I was involved in, both in the area of improving healthcare facilities and through volunteering with the NGO.  

Genevieve Elliott is currently in her second year studying adult nursing at the University of Nottingham

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