Case Study: Abby GarciaAugust 3, 2016
I am a part of the National Student Nurses Association and attended the annual conference this past April. Gap Medics sent out an email to all of the people who attended the conference saying they had a special trip organized for us. A friend of mine had been to Tanzania in the past and constantly raved about how amazing her experience was. I have always wanted to go to Africa so I just decided to do it!
A typical day on placement started off with arriving at the hospital just before 9am. Once there, we would change out of our smart clothes and into our scrubs. Then I would go to my unit and wait for my mentor. Once I located her I would follow her through her morning activities (checking on the more critically ill patients, drawing blood for the lab, giving medications). After we finished with the most urgent tasks it was usually about time for rounds. As nurses, we were to follow the doctors through their rounds listening and relaying pertinent info about changes in the patients’ conditions. Once a doctor completed their review of the patient we would document their new plan of care or simply write ‘continue with treatment’ if the plan did not change. After rounds, there were usually more nursing tasks to complete (inserting IVs, checking blood pressure, etc).
Every day about 1 hour before it was time for me to go we would go find a quiet place to sit and discuss the day. I was able to ask any questions I had that I didn’t get the chance to earlier in the day. Then we would go through a mini lesson. I was usually able to pick the topic or we would go through an interesting case that we saw that day. At the end of the day, I would go change back into my smart clothes and go to meet the other students.
After spending my first week in the hospital learning how to treat horrible diseases and infections it was nice to see what the Tanzanian health care system is doing to prevent these things from happening in the first place. For 3 days we traveled around to more rural villages in Iringa, Tanzania. In the villages, we would use old buildings (an old dispensary, a nursery school, etc.) to set up our stations.
The clinic we did was for children under 5 and pregnant women. Those are the two most at-risk patient populations in Tanzania. We would weigh the children which consisted of hanging them from a scale and then plot their growth on a chart similar to what we use in the U.S. Then we would distribute vitamin A and worming medication to all of the children. We would also vaccinate the children who needed it. For the pregnant women, we would do physical exams and HIV testing. It was really great to see how their healthcare system is helping the poorer and more rural communities and I felt extremely blessed to be able to help out!
What I learned
The most important thing that I learned was the value of education and the importance of wisely using limited resources. I feel like we take a lot for granted in U.S. hospitals. We never once have to stress about having enough clean gloves or limiting our use of oxygen machines down to a few hours a day because of electricity costs. The Tanzanian people highly value the knowledge they have been taught and recite textbook knowledge in daily practice. I hope I value my education the same way throughout my entire career.
The thing I will remember most about my trip is the people. I met so many extraordinary people. I will never forget the Gap Medics staff in Iringa, I loved my mentors at the hospital and the local students from Iringa who I also got to spend time with. And last but not least, the other students who I shared the Gap Medics house with. Everyone was so wonderful and made my experience so much more memorable. I can honestly say my trip wouldn’t have been as memorable if it wasn’t for each and every one of them.
My plan now is to finish nursing school. I will begin my final year this fall! I currently work as a nursing assistant at a cancer hospital and would love to begin my nursing career there. I also really enjoy caring for cardiac patients and would be just as happy on a cardiac unit. At some point I want to become involved in a global health organization as well, and plan to research more about different ones so I can pick the right organization for me.
My experience has confirmed my love for nursing and my desire to make more out of my career. I now know more than ever how much I want to be able to become a part of a global health organization and use my career as a nurse to go back to Tanzania and other developing countries to help them continue to improve their health care systems.
If I could speak to someone thinking of doing a placement, I would tell them to stop thinking and just do it! I know that the cost is a problem for some people, but with the help of my friends and family I was able to raise enough money to completely pay for my placement. The experience is priceless! I didn’t want to leave at the end of my two weeks and I made friends that will last a lifetime. I know that I will be a better nurse because I went on this trip.
Want to follow in Abby’s footsteps? Get in touch with our student advisors today.
Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.