We spoke to student nurse 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, “The facilities at the volunteer centre were brilliant and I was not expecting that. Obviously I knew it was going to be basic but I was pleasantly surprised”
Nia spoke to us about her placement in Senya. Nia really enjoyed her time and was amazed 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.
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 Accra 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. We went to Cape Coast Castle.
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. 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 Nurse. 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.
He is really passionate about the clinic that he wants everything to be right before he leaves. I think it would be really good to get a doctor there but Victor has all the knowledge of a doctor.
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 and it comes out of the Ward budget instead of the main NHS budget.
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.
Like to Volunteer with us or know more?
Questions? Would you like to participate? That’s great – feel free to email us or call/whatsapp us on: +44 (0) 7704 129 816
Alternatively, complete an application to begin the process of volunteering in Ghana, and we’ll be in touch with more details!