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Volume 5, Issue 5  5 2018
My Pre-med Shadowing Experience in Kenya has Solidified my Passion for Medicine

Traveling to a new country provides one with countless opportunities to explore a different healthcare system as well as embrace new cultures and have an adventure. This month, Brooke Rhinesmith, who recently completed her program shares her premedical internship in Africa experience. Don't take our word for it, learn more from past participants.

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Excited Me, Scared Me

My Premedical Internship Experience Abroad

Before coming to Kenya through Elective Africa, I was unsure of what exactly to expect. I had never left the country before and I was very nervous to do so all on my own. However, upon arriving in Mombasa, I was pleased with how helpful and sweet my advisors and caretakers were. This program has allowed me to meet some amazing new people from all different walks of life, whether it was my roommates, the doctors in the hospital, my program advisors or even the people I met on the Safari.

I saw so many incredible things that I never in my life would have encountered in an American Hospital. Some of it was sickening and heart wrenching while at other times it was jaw-dropping and awe-striking but nonetheless it only solidified my passion for medicine and showed me that this is the only career I can see myself having. I really enjoyed this program for helping me to see how different the facilities are from those at home. While it was very shocking to see at first, it's very admirable that these men and women work with what they have to provide care to the local community. This program also gave me an inside look at surgeries and my first theatre procedure which is something I will forever be thankful for.

I was also very happy to get to know this culture through the excellent Kenyan cuisine. I learned many new recipes and tried more new foods than I ever have, probably in my entire lifetime.  

This is an experience I will forever cherish and hold onto in my heart and will gladly recommend to anyone considering traveling to Africa. Thank you, everyone, at Elective Africa for allowing me to be part of this amazing program.

Traveling Abroad for placement needs proper planning and a great Placement Organizer. Start if off right; don't miss out on this amazing program—USD 100 OFF Your Reservation Deposit till 15th June 2018. Contact

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Get a Tailor-Made HealthCare Elective/Pre-Health Internship - You deserve it!

Nothing can ever replace the unique experiences traveling offers. As a student in any healthcare training including medicine or pre-medicine. This time provides you with an opportunity to build your skills and enhance your competence. It is also a great time for pre-health students to decide whether healthcare related field is really the career for them.

Join our structured and customized healthcare placements this summer and you will be sure to;

  • Experience a differentiated healthcare setting
  • Experience a unique and different culture
  • Experience a different set of diseases and treatment methods
  • Get exposure to procedures alien to your home country 

You can choose between 2 - 12 weeks for the placement and this way discover medicine in a different environment in Africa as well as get unparalleled personal and professional development.

If you are ready to travel abroad, be sure to submit your application at

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Psychiatry Placement Opportunity at Port Reitz Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya

At Elective Africa, we know that one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences while in your medical school or mental health nursing program in undertaking your clinical rotation overseas. For those looking into undertaking psychiatry or mental health nursing placements, our psychiatry placements abroad give you an opportunity to get immersed in a unique healthcare system at Port Reitz District Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya.

Kenya’s mental health policy estimates that about 25% of outpatients and about 40% of in-patients suffer from mental health conditions. The most frequent diagnosis of mental illnesses made in general hospital settings is depression, substance abuse, stress and anxiety disorders. Mental health in Kenya is grossly underfunded, forcing most of those suffering from it to seek private treatment which is very costly. In cases where they cannot afford to seek treatment, they continue to suffer from the debilitating effects of mental illness. Kenya is among countries listed by WHO as lacking a separate health budget for mental health. (Hapa Kenya.Com, 2018)

A brief profile of Port Reitz Hospital

Port Retiz hospital is located in Mombasa, Kenya and is the second largest mental health specialty facility after Mathari Mental facility. The hospital has a 250-bed capacity distributed across the various specialties with a staff capacity of over 250 staff spread out across all cadres.

The mental health and substance abuse department has a capacity of 80 beds, with the approximate number of patients per day being 20 including the clinics for injections and medication

The taboo of mental illness in Kenya

For those who chose to undertake their psychiatry placement in our Mombasa, Kenya location, The system is also unique as you interact with a new culture, this way you get to learn how culture affects the delivery of healthcare. A good example which you will most likely to come across during your placement is that in countries like Kenya and Tanzania, mental illness is not really perceived as an illness by most communities. It is a belief that someone has been bewitched and therefore instead of most people seeking treatment from the hospital they turn to their religions for help.

“As people treat mental illness as a spiritual rather than a medical disorder, many victims go untreated”

It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Garissa, northeastern Kenya. Abdirahman Abdi Olow wakes up to check if his brothers made it home last night. Dressed in a white vest, he makes his way to his brothers’ makeshift room made of dry grass just metres away from his house. 

“The chances of finding them in their room are unlikely,” says the 28-year-old as he opens the tiny iron-sheet door. “Sometimes, I find dogs sleeping in there since they’ve gotten used to its emptiness.” 
This time, however, he finds one of his brothers, Aden, fast asleep. He turns him on to his other side and closes the door behind him. He heads back to his house and alerts his wife to prepare breakfast for Aden. 

His two brothers, Hussein and Aden, have been suffering from mental disorders for nearly a decade. 

‘It’s a medical problem’

Hussein, an agricultural studies graduate, was the breadwinner of his family before he was diagnosed with the illness. 

One day, nine years ago, Hussein started to complain of headaches and of “hearing too many sounds”. Some days later, the 35-year-old stripped naked outside of his house.

“That was when we concluded that our brother was mentally ill. All this was new to us,” Abdirahman says, explaining how quickly the family was stigmatized. “People judged and made us outcasts.”

Aden became the family’s breadwinner, working night shifts as a security guard. But then, in 2011, he too fell ill.

“He started complaining of people disturbing him. This was followed by him talking to himself,” Abdirahman explains. “That was when I suspected that something was wrong with my brother.” Poor and helpless, the family started asking traditional healers to pray for the two men.

They had plans to take them to the Mathari Mental Hospital, the only public referral hospital for the mentally ill, but they could not afford it. “I know my Somali people stigmatize such people and don’t believe it’s a medical problem,” Abdirahman says. “I respect the religious way, but I cannot leave out the option of taking them to a hospital.”

“I wish I had money,” he adds, explaining how hard it is for the family to raise enough to pay for treatment.

Adopted from, featuring article “The taboo of mental illness in Kenya”

This is just one of the many cases that you are going to encounter while on your placement in a developing country and more so at the Port Reitz district hospital.

Sophie Turner, from Queen’s University Belfast shares her Psychiatric hospital rotation experience at Port Reitz District Hospital.

‘I completed the first part of my elective at Port Reitz District Hospital in the mental health and substance abuse department. This was an interesting experience and very different from home. Despite it being the second largest psychiatric hospital in Kenya the facilities were extremely limited in terms of staff, medications, and other necessities.

While here I spent my time mainly contributing to the ward rounds, handing out medications and taking histories from the patients. The vast majority of patients had been admitted due to the effects of drugs and it was very interesting to hear all of their stories. I spent the first week very confused about who were students and who were members of staff. I then realized it was, in fact, nursing students who were just starting their psychiatric placement who were running the outpatient clinic. There were perhaps two qualified nurses working at any one time for approximately 60 inpatients.

I was able to meet the only public psychiatrist in Mombasa region and arrange further meetings. This allowed me to see the medical side of treating the patients and we had many interesting discussions about the difference between psychiatry in the United Kingdom and Kenya. He worked in a large number of roles ranging from forensic psychiatry, running a methadone clinic and seeing general psychiatry inpatients. I have been interested in forensic psychiatry for a long time and I spent 2 days with the psychiatrist while he decided whether suspected criminals were fit to stand trial. It amazed me how quickly this could be done. It also allowed me to see some fascinating cases; including terror and murder suspects.

The methadone clinic was something which could be directly compared to the United Kingdom. It is a relatively new government-run programme and so unlike most of the health care in Kenya, it is available free of charge.  When the patients are first seen a general and specific history is taken by the nurse and then they are tested for many substances including heroin, cocaine, methadone, cannabis, barbiturates, benzodiazepines and amphetamines. This, in my opinion, is a single most recent show of effort by the Government to improve the health services.

I spent approximately a week of my elective in the Emergency Department of Coast General Provincial Hospital where I was mainly in Minor Injuries. It was clearly characterized by the chronic shortage of staff and extremely busy. The majority of the work involved changing dressings, draining abscesses and suturing. Before my elective, I had not done any suturing and so I gained a lot from this.   While I was in A&E the most fascinating and worrying thing I saw was a male patient who had had his foot run over. The accident had happened a few days previously and his family had brought him into minors to have his dressing changed. The patient was unable to walk and appeared delirious. He was clearly very ill and in the UK would have immediately been treated for sepsis, one of the staff, however, thought he had “hysteria”. After the discussion among the staff, we convinced him this was not the case we were finally able to admit him. 

The rest of my elective I spent in pediatricians with emphasis on neonatology. The most difficult aspect here was the inability of parents to pay for their children’s medications. A 9 year old female diagnosed with encephalitis was unable to be treated with IV acyclovir as her mother could not afford it. The contrast of this to my pediatrics placement at home was vast. A baby who had transposition of the great arteries was in a similarly difficult situation, the closest place she could be taken for the operation was India, and again this was far more than the parents were able to afford.

I really enjoyed my time in Kenya and I am extremely glad I chose to do my elective there despite many people discouraging me from the idea. It was an amazing experience and one which I learned a lot.

If you are looking into undertaking a psychiatry placement reach out to us at and one of our placement advisors will contact you and guide you through the application process

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No Matter the Location, No matter the Setting, #NursesRock

Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. It looked fascinating.  I was so in love with the white coats, the stethoscope and the demeanor of these two professions. Needles were however not my thing. I remember I once witness my sister; a passionate nurse dressing a wound and that was the end of my dream in the medical field.  I am scared to hell about needles and I think I would become more sicker than the patient if they were to present a case before me. How do you do it? You guys are always so composed, caring and patient.

I may not have made it to live my childhood dream of becoming a nurse but with Elective Africa, a placement organizer for pre-nursing internships and nursing electives, am happy and proud to be working with future and current nurses who are passionate about their work and the patients they serve.  Regardless of location in the world, nurses have been known to go beyond their way to serve the people promoting and improving healthcare for all. Dr. Nelly Bosire, an Obstetrics & Gynaecology Specialist once shared in one of the local dailies in Kenya about this nurse who had to cycle 7km and take a Matatu for the remaining 7 km to the nearest District Hospital on Mondays at 5 am, to collect vaccines for the week.  Every Monday, this is his routine all with an aim of ensuring babies never suffered from polio or measles.

If you ask me, that is nowhere close to motivation from the salary or the allowance he is given, but it was out of passion.  What happens when there is limited medical equipment to stop child-birth related death among women? A nurse gotta do what a nurse gotta do. Just the other day, nurses and midwives in Kenya discovered the use of uterine balloon tamponade made of two condoms, two cotton strings, one Foley catheter and a 60ml syringe to save mothers suffering from postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Does it work? When used properly by trained health workers, it saves 97 percent of the women who use it.

You’ve got a lot to be proud of, for instance, it’s only a nurse who is strong enough to tolerate anything and soft enough to understand anyone. You smile, use kind words, give a listening ear and turn peoples lives around.

Being in a journey, to one of the most important cadres in healthcare that accounts for nearly 50% of the health workforce, you need to prepare adequately for a lifetime of commitment to protecting, promoting and improving healthcare for all. As a student nurse or a nursing practitioner, traveling and working in a different hospital cultural setting in Africa gives you a great opportunity to work, learn and shadow nurses who in most cases work under difficult conditions with understaffing and limited medical equipment. You get to immerse yourself in a new culture, volunteer your skills with the less fortunate as well as have adventures by visiting various breathtaking sceneries.

We agree that not all angels have wings…some have scrubs and we wouldn’t mind to make their journey interesting and transforming just as we did to Kyle’s

‘Since I was a child I dreamt of coming to Africa, a soulful desire. Now, with Elective Africa, I am in Kenya. The people are truly lovely. I am well cared for in my Diggs here with a cook, a driver to take me to and from the hospital, and someone here to help me with EVERYTHING else.

The government hospital is definitely for the poor. The last 3+ days I have been in Labor and Delivery where life is not taken for granted. Both clean and sterile gloves can be hard to find, no soap, no hot water… supplies, in general, can be scarce.

Today while holding a woman’s leg and letting her squeeze my fingers with the pain of delivery, the ocean breeze gently blew through the window. In between contractions, I watched monkeys play outside. Happy to say the baby and mom are fine.


I am still working in the ER. It is amazing. The doctors are fun and easy to talk with. The nurses are kind. Today I was starting an I.V. (Branula) on this young man with a broken ankle. I would get it just under the skin and he would pull away. The doctor was helping hold his arm. I talked to the pt. about relaxing. Finally, he did and it went right in. The doctor said she never heard someone talk to a pt. or like that. She was amused. We are learning from each other

Saying goodbye to Kenya

My time here is almost over. Way too short!! Sunday I took the day to go up the coast to snorkel. The swimming was wonderful but the dressy seafood was the BEST! So nice to get out of the city.

Kenya, the people are proud, their hearts are open, and everyone gets along. Sadly my time is ending. The experience through Elective Africa was intense and fulfilling. The last 4 days I spent on Safari. 3 days in Masai Mara and 1 day in Nakuru. Holy MAGICAL! The photos are a small glimpse of this experience. I am so grateful the Kenyans have reserved so much land! And the Masai living near the park area huge part of this effort. They guarded our camp. And we spent a few hours with them. They don’t like people to take their photos. However, we were invited in and they happily agreed. But no photos outside of this.

Really, the best way to travel for me is to volunteer. Through this experience, I had authentic interactions with the locals. Everyone was kind, open and easy to talk to. Phares was so helpful, so was Justina who was also very responsive. A peaceful, intelligent, industrious, authentic people, the Kenyans. My heart is forever fuller!! Thank you so much, Elective Africa. The staffs at E.A were nothing short of wonderful.

Happy International Nurses Day!

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Learning expands great souls ~ Namibian Proverb

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