University of Liverpool
Kenya Medical Elective
Jambo my name is Radha and I'm a 4th year medical student from the UK. I came to Mombasa Kenya to do a 4week elective in Coast Province General hospital. Let me tell you now, it was the best decision I made! I have learnt so much from the doctors and patients and their families alike.
Coming from a National Health System, I wanted exposure to a low resource hospital in a developing country where I would be able to gain a vast amount of hands on experience. That is exactly what I got. There wasn't one day when I didn't learn a new skill or about a condition. The doctors were eager to teach and you were included into their team and your opinion and input mattered greatly to them. I had prejudged that their practice would be very different to back home, however, quite obviously, the knowledge and treatment guidelines were basically the same, only that the work ups and management was conducted to the best of their ability.
Being a government hospital meant patients had to pay for their treatment and investigations. Therefore Drs would have to manage the patients based on that pretence, sometimes having to skip certain steps.
The set-up is basic but it is incredible how much they are able to do still and the vast patient turnover. I chose to rotate through internal medicine, Obs Gynae, paediatrics and casualty/ER. These areas gave me a wide view of the standard there.
Having not been to a government hospital in a developing country before, I was apprehensive about how I would personally react more than fear of getting a shock. This was thanks to the Elective International as they had thoroughly prepared me from weeks in advance.
Throughout my planning and decision-making process, members of the team had been in touch via emails, text and calls to ensure that I knew exactly what I was paying for and what I could hope to achieve. Although I initially felt overwhelmed with the amount of discipline they proposed with regards to hospital timings and logbook completion, I later came to appreciate this level of organization and care they had for wanting me to get the most out of the experience. They based my experience on objectives that I had set to achieve and tailored this whilst I was out here based on what I was able to see and get done and what further things I wanted to do. For example, I was able to fit loads of IV lines and take bloods within the first week and so wanted more practice Suturing. I was able to do just that in casualty. As long as the staff know what you want to achieve and you show enthusiasm and intuition, you will get to do and see above and beyond what you had bargained for!
And it doesn't stop at the hospital... I felt I got a real feel of Kenya whilst I was there. Although awesome meals are provided, I made sure I ventured out and tried typical Kenyan food. The family I stayed with guided me to the best places which meant I didn't get ill even once!
Just like any country, you need to be smart and not put yourself in harms way. Your transport to and from hospital is in place so there is no worries there. The drivers are great fun and teach you about the area and the local language! Within the hospital you will have a mentor who will organise your time in hospital to make you sure you're not wasting your time and getting the most out of it. Then once in the team you will make friends with docs etc who will be so eager to show you around and make sure you see their country that you will never feel alone and in danger.
Any activities outside the hospital are organised by yourself but again Elective International will be more than happy to give you ideas and contacts to get you the best deals and make sure you don't get ripped off. It obviously depends on your interests, for example I am really into nature rather than the touristy things, so I went on walks and to the beach. I even got the chance to do a kite surfing course. I am also a huge fan of food so I made sure I tried all the local delicacies! As long as you want to do things badly enough, you won't miss out!
I would advise taking lots of mosquito spray. And definitely make the most of the team. Ask them as many questions as possible. I felt bad for constantly annoying them to find out every last detail, but they were more than happy to help and I was grateful for all their advice as it meant my trip was successful and thoroughly enjoyable!! And once you're out there make the most of it, get stuck in, talk to doctors and patients about their experience and really get a feel of life for them. You will be amazed! Don't pity them because the majority are doing incredible things with their lives and are so happy! Just don't take them for granted and treat the people like they are below you. A developing country is just that.. They are developing and coming up in the world, and that is only possible because of its people!
I want to thank them all for being so great and can't wait to embark on my next adventure with them! Have a great elective and hope you pick coast general!