Clinical placements

Why memories of my elective placement in Ghana will stay with me through my career

Natasha Evans on how her trip enriched her understanding of public health issues

Natasha Evans on how her trip enriched her understanding of public health issues


Nursing students Natasha Evans (centre) and Laura McCann dressing people's wounds as part of community outreach.

In my third year of nurse training I undertook an elective placement to Ghana in west Africa.

I had always wanted to go abroad as part of my nursing degree and thought Ghana would provide me with a unique learning experience. I wanted to learn about the differences in healthcare compared to the UK and was aware the country needed support from volunteers.

Our remote home from home

So on November 25 last year, fellow nursing student Laura McCann and I started our three-week trip with a flight to the capital Accra, followed by a four-hour car journey to our remote accommodation in the hills, near a small town called Mpraeso.

Our accommodation was basic – on arrival at 4.30am, Laura and I shared the top bunk of a bed to have a quick sleep and then had cold, rain-water showers. But we were greeted warmly by our hosts and the other volunteers in the house.

‘One of the important similarities between the NHS and the Ghanaian hospital was the compassion, care and love found in the nursing teams’


Natasha with community mental health nurses.

During our three weeks, we worked at Kwahu Government Hospital and spent a day with nurses in a community psychiatric clinic. We travelled to remote areas to deliver community outreach clinics and carried out education sessions in schools.

Nursing students wanting to gain experience in the government hospitals have to pay 500 Ghanaian cedi on arrival – approximately £70 – as a donation. The hospital grounds were well kept, but the furnishings would not meet standards of compliance required in the NHS in relation to infection prevention and safety protocols.

The equipment was limited and old and needles were reused from one patient to another. Although I struggled to get my head around this, one of the important similarities between the NHS and the Ghanaian government hospital was the compassion, care and love found in the nursing teams.

Navigating social stigma

The nurses in the community psychiatric clinic wear their own clothes and walk to patients’ homes to visit them – the stigma surrounding mental health illness in Ghana is still very high and many patients do not want to be seen attending a mental health clinic.

The nurses ensured the patients were meeting their own personal health and hygiene needs and reminded them of the importance of taking their medication. They also dealt with any concerns and offered health promotion advice to each patient they visited.

‘I witnessed the heart-breaking and permanent damage of not having a healthcare system’

In the remote communities where we participated in the outreach clinics, people struggled even to afford the trip from their home to a pharmacy, doctor or hospital, never mind their health insurance or any treatment.

When we arrived, they would hold a ceremony for us and the eldest individual in that community would bless us for being there – they were so grateful for the care we were about to provide.

We set up stands for wound care and check-ups, such as blood pressure, temperature and pulse, as well as a stand to check and provide treatment for malaria, one of the biggest killers in Ghana.


Hospital utility room.

We also provided clean water filters, food and essential items such as clothes, including bras, and re-usable sanitary products. It was in these communities that I witnessed the heart-breaking and permanent damage of not having a healthcare system. I met a patient with epilepsy who could not access regular check-ups or medication so had seizures on a daily basis. One had caused her to fall on to a hot stove of soup, permanently burning her face and legs.

Public health messages

Although Laura and I are not qualified teachers, we still had a lot to offer the schools in Ghana. We taught health promotion in relation to personal hygiene and safe sex to a group of the older girls in a school, and provided them with hygiene essentials, such as deodorant and soap.

At a school in Nkawkaw, a town in southern Ghana, we spent the day with a group of children with learning disabilities where we delivered health promotion advice to the teachers, including how to recognise signs of infection.


The schoolroom at Fulani.

We then moved onto Fulani, where we had to walk 40 minutes to collect all the children from their homes and take them to school. The children in Fulani have no teachers in their community and are not taught unless volunteers take on this role. Education is not considered important, and many of the young girls were married with children of their own.

My experience in Ghana taught me the true value of education and health promotion, and how lucky we are in the UK to have a good healthcare system accessible to all. It made me stronger, both personally and professionally, and I gained valuable skills in leadership, team work and communication, which I will take with me throughout my nursing career. 


Natasha Evans graduated from the University of Wolverhampton in January and now works as a general practice nurse at Donnington Medical Practice in Telford, Shropshire 

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