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Work the World was recommended to me by BU, and it seemed like the best choice as food and accommodation were included, and the entire placement is planned for you. I just had to book my own flights! I received a grant from Bournemouth University, called the Global Horizons Fund, which meant flights and other expenses were covered, which made a huge difference to the overall cost of the trip.

I chose Ghana as I wanted to go to Africa, and I’d never been before – I thought it would be the best time to experience the country, and get a real feel for a different culture away from home comforts.

Image of Sarah holding a baby in the hospital

Me at my placement

We arrived in Takoradi on our second day and had our city orientation with Frank, he showed us around the hospital. It was very different from the UK – the wards are a traditional layout, long and straight, in the UK we have bays and there are usually 6 patients in one bay, whereas this was around 20 across a long room. The A&E (where I took my placement) was a lot smaller than the one in the UK.

All of the staff were very welcoming. We asked lots of questions and showed interest in the staff and patients, which helped us quickly become part of the team. I saw a lot of children in road traffic accidents, more than I would see in the UK. I also noticed that these patients didn’t arrive as “cleaned up” as they would be in the UK. The paramedics don’t have the time or resource before they bring them to A&E. I definitely found the malaria, TB and cholera cases particularly interesting – as I had never seen these at home – someone even came in with a monkey bite.

There were definitely visible differences between Takoradi and home. They don’t respond to emergencies with the same urgency that we do, which I had already been told about, but it’s certainly a cultural difference, as the Ghanaians seem very calm in day-to-day life. Another difference was how the staff and next of kin dealt with death, outward emotions weren’t displayed quite the same. As a nurse, you’re not expected to provide emotional support for physical injuries, such as comforting someone in pain.

The staff’s resourcefulness was a huge eye-opener: we reused things like oxygen masks (disposable in UK – normally one per patient or staff), whereas in the hospital there was one adult-sized mask and one child-sized mask for a whole department. Patients with broken bones would have their breaks set with blocks of cardboard.

Image of Sarah in a hospital operating room

This is me in one of the hospital operating rooms

Day-to-day tasks were a mixture between observational and practical. The first week in A&E was observation based, but later on I could help triage the patients and provide the doctor with an assessment, including the urgency of their case and then also observe them while they were in A&E, all under supervision.

My placement definitely made me more resourceful, and I have a far greater awareness of the cost of equipment we use in hospitals at home. I also gained a greater appreciation for my home healthcare system. It was very insightful to see patients with malaria; I am now more confident in spotting the signs, so I definitely learned practical skills as well as cultural. I feel more confident in reacting to emergencies, something which will certainly help me in my future career.

We all had weekly language lessons with a local teacher, and I picked up a few phrases, including all basics. We learned the important phrases that you’d need in the hospital.

Image of Sarah on a bridge

Me on a very thin bridge!

When it came to planning weekends, Frank and Joe, the Programme Managers, were really helpful. Our first weekend in Ghana, we went to the stilted village, Nzulezo – in a canoe. It was very interesting to see life in rural Ghana. We also went to Africa Beach, which was lovely. One weekend we went to a safari at Mole National Park, it was truly amazing.

A placement is definitely worth doing, it’s an investment and hard work, but it’s such a good experience.



Sarah Mabbott
BSc Adult Nursing


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