Why did you decide to take a career break and work abroad?
I wanted to gain experience of a low-resource healthcare system and also to see a part of the world I hadn’t seen before. I chose to do my placement with Work the World, an organisation that specialises in providing a unique and exciting insight into healthcare systems across the developing world in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The team was great – from pre-departure phone calls covering what to expect, to tailoring my placement exactly as I wanted – they were extremely accommodating and very helpful. They met me on my arrival and showed me where everything was.
What did your placement entail?
I spent one week working on neuro intensive care, one week on neuro wards and theatres, and two weeks working in the emergency department. The emergency department was one of the most memorable departments I worked in while in Tanzania. I assisted with many acute, deteriorating patients, some of whom had been in motorcycle accidents.
Did you get the chance to experience life outside the hospital?
I met people from many different countries, including America, Australia and the Netherlands. We visited the absolutely beautiful islands of Zanzibar and Bongoyo; went to Prison Island where we saw giant tortoises, one of which was 158-years-old; had a tour of Stone Town where we learnt about the history of Zanzibar and got to visit Freddie Mercury’s birthplace; and swam with turtles.
What are your lasting feelings about your trip to Tanzania?
Choosing to visit Tanzania as a nurse was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a life-changing experience and hugely humbling. It was difficult at times, sometimes even shocking due to the sheer lack of resources, but I came away with a renewed sense of perspective.
What have you been doing since you returned from Tanzania?
Since returning from Tanzania last year, I have been doing a lot of nursing agency shifts in trusts such as Kings College Hospital, Kingston Hospital and Croydon University Hospital, working on their various intensive care units. Currently, I am doing a 10-week placement in Ecuador, the Galapagos and the Amazon, where I am taking part in community and conservation projects, while living with an Andean host family.
This sounds interesting. Can you tell us more about the placement?
I have just been living with a Spanish host family for two weeks in a very small village in Ecuador called Agato. I have been helping build irrigation tunnels as well creating sidewalks to allow the children of the community to safely walk to school. This has required a lot of hard work every day, but it has been hugely rewarding seeing the results and the community have been so unbelievably grateful for our work. I am now going to stay with the Tsáchila tribe, which will be an experience in itself! I will be assisting and helping with the cocoa production. Finally, my time in the Galapagos will be focusing on conservation work to restore the natural habitat for the giant Galapagos tortoise; I will also have free time to explore the unique island.
What are your memories of your time studying nursing at Southampton?
I had the best time at Southampton. The social life and the nursing course definitely lived up to my expectations. Southampton is a well-respected university that’s well-known for nursing. It was a well-run, well-structured course. It allowed me to undertake some great clinical placements, giving me a real span of opportunities to help me decide what kind of nursing I wanted to specialise in.
What skills from your course have helped you in your career?
Ultimately I became a very sociable person thanks to the University of Southampton. I also had such excellent placements – mainly at Southampton General Hospital – that meant I was able to witness best clinical practice throughout my training and this has had a big impact on my day-to-day nursing duties. I always aspire to give the best possible care and I keep up-to-date on the most recent evidence-based practice.
What would you say to other graduates thinking about a placement abroad?
If you are considering doing something like this but are unsure or slightly apprehensive, I would say wholeheartedly: do it – you’ll never look back.
Find out more about Emily’s trip to Tanzania.