You don’t need bags of experience, loads of qualifications and a long-term commitment to volunteer in medicine or healthcare. Short-term placements are increasingly popular and can provide invaluable experience for those looking to start or develop a career in medicine or nursing.
The Ghana programme with Original Volunteers places people from a variety of backgrounds and experience into clinics, hospitals and outreach placements. Just like in the UK, much of the essential care work is carried out by those who can spare the time to help make a difference. Important healthcare work isn’t just carried out by doctors and nurses; although there are serious gaps in some poorer countries. Médecins Sans Frontières(Doctors Without Borders), which provides urgent medical care to countries in emergency need estimate that 44 percent of their national and field staff are non-medical personnel.Read more about their work at http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/
Entry level healthcare volunteers who are considering a career in medicine or nursing have assisted at projects in Ghana with clinics for wound care, infants, weighing babies and advising on basic hygiene. Medical students can be involved with the local hospital in Atibie, from shadowing staff to diagnosing and working alongside the surgical and midwifery teams.
One of our medical volunteers said:
“I returned from Ghana on Friday 13th Sept after 2 weeks volunteering. I just wanted to say a massive ‘thank you’ to the team. I’m a qualified paramedic and whilst out there worked in Atibie hospital. I also travelled to a remote village and provided Measles and Rubella vaccinations. I visited the schools and also the orphanage. I have had an amazing experience and have met and made some fantastic friends”
Volunteering in health in developing countries helps you to stand out
Places on nursing courses in the UK are highly competitive and volunteering can offer a wide range of experiences that might not be readily available at home. Volunteering abroad also shows that you’re dedicated and enthusiastic rather than just looking for a job. Admissions tutors are often looking through lots of applications so working in a clinic, however small or rural in Africa, could really make you stand out. Find out more about getting into nursing via The Nursing Times website.
Many pre-med and pre-nursing students ask us what they will be doing at their placement, worried that they will need exhaustive and varied work experience to be selected for a course. In the UK, specific nursing skills gained during work experience are not a pre-requisite for obtaining a place. Regarding their medicine degree, the Oxford University website states “We do appreciate that it can be very difficult to arrange work experience and we therefore have no requirement for it”. More details on work experience for medical applicants can be found at www.medsci.ox.ac.uk
Course requirements for nursing and medicine can be more flexible than they at first appear
For students who are currently on nursing courses, enrichment modules offer chances to experience healthcare and communities in a different and challenging context, way out of their usual comfort zone. Although course requirements can vary, they are often not as strict as you would imagine. Jeanne Landon-Campbell at The University of Cumbria writes of their enrichment modules “the aim of this module is to develop cultural understanding amongst the students…they are expected to deliver culturally competent care”. Some of the students on Cumbria’s BSc (Hons) Nursing degree programme took on very different experiences from working with substance abuse charities in the UK; adults with learning disabilities at home and overseas to learning about massage and healthy eating in Sri Lanka. Read more about their unique experiences at www.cumbria.ac.uk
Original Volunteers sometimes receives calls from parents of students who are applying for medical placements asking if their son/daughter will be permitted to diagnose or operate at the hospital when working abroad. Naturally, this isn’t possible as only qualified healthcare professionals will be experienced enough to offer expertise at this level – the same rules would apply as if the students were volunteering in the UK! Ask your admissions or course tutor for details of course requirements and enrichment modules.
Volunteering in health related areas abroad will help progress your career and boost your confidence
The good news is that any experience is beneficial for those considering a career in a healthcare related discipline, whether you are already studying or about to begin. Volunteering in a hospital or in the community of a developing country will undoubtedly offer a wider range of experiences than would be possible, without experience, in your home country.
Original Volunteers destinations currently offering healthcare placements: