We spoke to Nia, a student nurse at the University of Leeds who has just returned from spending two weeks in Senya, Ghana observing the local clinic hospital. When she arrived she was pleasantly surprised when she arrived. “The facilities at the Volunteer centre were brilliant and I was not expecting that. Obviously I knew it was going to be bucket water, no running water, no air-con, but I was expecting that as you had described that.”
Nia spoke to us about her placement in Senya. Nia really enjoyed her placement and was pleasantly surprised about how established she found the hospital and clinic. For Nia she wanted to witness and observe the work of doctors and nurses in Ghana, whilst also finding out more about malaria for her dissertation.
“I did a lot of observational; We did a lot of patient observations this is a skill we do day in day out so that was quite helpful to help them out with. So we got on with that and it also helped me learn to once I’ve taken the observation to ask what the problem is and assess whether they needed a blood test. It was difficult to sometimes work out what the problem was and had to get the nurses to translate, but a lot of the time we could use gestures and body language being able to establish whats wrong. Then over the 2 weeks we could gather what sort of conditions needed blood tests which was very helpful. “
Nia also got to witness the education sessions that are run from the waiting rooms. They often varied between Malaria, communicable diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, family planning and educating mothers . “They are really good and vigilant on education”. She found it quite shocking to hear about the amount of people who have high blood pressure and diabetes. When we asked her what she thought could cause these illnesses, she suggested from the amount of rice or just high levels of stress.
Nia spent a small portion of her trip without other volunteers, when we asked how she got on with this aspect of the placement she was very positive. “It didn’t phase me”, though she suggested that other volunteers should get more involved in the orphanage and the clinics.
We asked Nia about how the Ghanaian hospitals differ from the ones she learns in in the UK. “Privacy is a luxury here. They don’t tell what is going to happen, you turn up and the Night Staff are still there, Chief Nurse comes in and they say what is happening with the various patients and then go home. Meanwhile the Staff nurses are setting up for the day. Cleaning, stripping the beds, like we would do on a ward in England. We would start with the first few patients, observing, sending them for blood tests and then they come back to the waiting room and wait for a consultation with the Chief Nurse. Meanwhile we were getting flow back from the Chief Nurse, who was prescribing medication and getting it from the pharmacy. By the middle of the day you had both observation happening and medication and sending people to the wards, getting them comfortable and checking up on them. Because the ward is quite a way from the office you had to go and fro just to check and get a nurse when needed. In Acra some people cannot afford treatment so they just die in A&E as they have to pay before they get their treatment.
The staff and people I stayed with were lovely. The cook was called Sarah, she was like a Mum to us, taking care of me whilst I was there. Jeff was really lovely, not there all the time but this was good because it meant we had to do things on my own. Jeff was there, to show me around and do things during my free time. Jeff was very good. We went to Cape Coast Castle and Jeff was copying the tour guide – because he has been so many times.
Nia explained how a days at the clinic could vary and the number of patients she would see come in.
Wednesday and Friday were market days so there weren’t as many people there. But on Mondays it was very busy maybe seeing 10 patients an hour, maybe more. Very busy. But on a Friday maybe 3 or less. People come in the morning because they want to get on with their day. After lunch we would just sit and wait for people. That is when I used my time to going to observe and get information for my essay.
Nia got to learn from the staff at the clinic.
Victor is a bag of knowledge. You would have thought he has done the same degree, he is a Senior Nurser and he wants to come to England to do a medical degree. He wants to get a doctor at the clinic because there are things that they cannot do, like blood transfusions and some medications they cannot give without a doctor so Victor wants to get that done and then he can leave and do his medical degree. He is really passionate about the clinic that he wants everything to be right before he leaves. He has only been there 5 months and it is a really big thing for him to do on his own. I think it would be really good to get a doctor there but Victor has all the knowledge of a doctor but is not registered.
The nurses were always wanting to teach us how to do things and they were really shocked that in our training we do not do things like IV training until we have finished. The local nurses could not understand why we were not trained in these things as this is the main thing that nurses do. The reason being, in the UK it is expensive to train us so this way it then comes out of the Ward budget instead of the main NHS budget. The local nurses learnt other things to us on their degree.
Nia wanted to find out more about Malaria for one of the modules that she undertook at university.
“I am doing my essay on malaria, we don’t have the knowledge about malaria here in England so it was great to find out more about it. I sat for about an hour talking to the disease controller about malaria, which is something I could not do in England”
We asked Nia how have you decided to write your dissertation on malaria?
Well, it was the most seen issue at the health centre, nearly every other person had malaria. Which is quite surprising considering how much education they have but I think it is unavoidable until they address the root causes. I was going to do TB at the beginning, as I had lots of information on this but when I got there, there was only one person with TB when I was there and it is really difficult to explain how they treat it. Malaria, they know how to prevent it but they cant prevent it because the treated mosquito nets, which they use, stop working after 2 years and unless the NGOs are delivering more they cannot do anything. However, the untreated nets are proven effective but the people are told that the treated nets only work for 2 years they then get rid of them, which they shouldn’t do. Because even one untreated net is better than nothing. The root causes – dirty water, unused guttering which gets dirty and collects water and it become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. They also don’t have bins in Senya the local government pays the local people to pick up the rubbish.
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