March 24, 2021
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Getting nursing experience in Africa can transform your resume and career, with unique insight into global health.
Nurses are dynamic healthcare professionals, who are experts at responding to what patients need. This is why they are key players in helping to achieve global health goals.
The unique challenges of the African continent, as well as the rich cultural experience create important learning opportunities for aspiring nurses. Gaining nursing experience in Africa can help you learn how culture and the environment affect healthcare delivery.
Our global health experience program in Tanzania has been designed to help aspiring doctors, nurses, midwives, and physician assistants gain real life experience in international healthcare.
In this article, we will explain how nursing experience in Africa can benefit your career and how you can find those opportunities.
Why is the African continent an important location to learn about global health?
Africa carries a quarter of the world’s burden of global disease, but has less than 3% of the world’s health care workforce, which presents many challenges and learning opportunities for aspiring nurses.
Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Tanzania, hosts over a billion people – 15% of the world’s population, but remains severely understaffed when it comes to healthcare workers. Interestingly, of this limited workforce, nurses make up 45-60 percent. The ratio of nurses to physicians in sub-Saharan Africa is much higher than in other continents.
This means that pre-nursing students will observe a challenging environment for healthcare workers, but will have the opportunity to see more nurses in action than in most healthcare systems.
On our global health experience in Tanzania, you will be guided throughout your two-week program by medical doctors who will serve as your mentors. They will be by your side as you spend a week in a local healthcare facility, observing healthcare professionals deliver primary care services and treat a host of medical issues.
Malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are the leading causes of death on the continent. Too many Africans die from curable diseases, due to lack of resources and specifically medications.
The lack of access leads many citizens to traditional healers. There are over 120 tribes in Tanzania, many of whom have their own traditional healers that they seek out for medical issues. Even Tanzanians who don’t live in these tribes will go to a traditional healer because they lack funds, resources, or just have not had success with more Westernized medicine.
As a future nurse on our global health experience program, you will spend a day with the Maasai and the Hehe tribes to learn from their traditional healers and compare and contrast the different cultures. With the help of a translator, you will get to ask questions about what kinds of patients they see and their treatment plans.
You will also go out into the community to learn about each tribe’s way of life and observe their environment. This will help you understand the medical issues that face these communities and how their culture affects their decisions when it comes to healthcare.
Getting nursing experience in Africa allows you to broaden your knowledge and cultural understanding, which will make you a better nurse in the future.
Nurses and midwives play an important role in global health initiatives because they provide primary care and assist with health promotion programs.
The leading causes of death in sub-Saharan Africa are infectious diseases, child and maternal health issues, and nutritional cases. While the leading causes of death in the U.S. and Europe are different, some of those issues can also be diminished through health education and behavior change.
Heart disease, for example, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease can be caused by smoking, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure – many of which can be prevented if a patient changes their behavior.
Because nurses are so involved in patient care, they are also the most likely to make an impact on patient behavior. Learning about issues that affect communities as well as how to promote healthy behaviors are helpful skills for any aspiring nurse.
Getting nursing experience in Africa can help you understand patients from different backgrounds, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses. As a primary care provider, you will undoubtedly encounter all kinds of patients who need your help.
By participating in our program, you will also help to improve access to healthcare for the local community. We pay our partner hospitals, tribal communities, and mentors from your program fee. This creates an incentive for them to provide you with an amazing educational experience, and it creates economic benefits for everyone involved.
In addition to personal development, getting nursing experience in Africa will help you develop your academic and professional career. Adding international frontline experiences to your resume and/or including it in your personal statement will help you stand out from the crowd of other applicants.
The best way to use your global experience is to explain how the cases and professionals you observed are going to help you become a better nurse. Don’t just write or talk about what you saw, but explain how it impacted you.
Nearly every student has shadowed a nurse before applying to school. Finding ways to make your own application stand out is important, and international experience can help set you apart.
If you’re not sure if nursing is for you, that’s okay too. Our global health experience program can help you see different aspects of medicine and a variety of health professionals at work. If you don’t want to pursue nursing, perhaps a career in public health is more suitable for your interests. We can help you decide which career path is right for you.
When looking for experience abroad, it’s important that you find programs that are safe and ethical. If you are not medically trained then you should not be performing any procedures. Keep that in mind as you look for opportunities.
If you’re looking for nursing experience in Africa, we hope you join us! You can learn more about our program here.