Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

Working in Africa had always been something I wanted to do. This summer I wanted to gain some insight in to what it would be like, so taking part in a summer medical elective with Elective Africa was the perfect opportunity. As I am soon to qualify as a doctor back home, I was keen to experience how medicine differs internationally. I wanted a totally different experience from what I had already got back home, and that’s exactly what I got.

I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect when starting my 6 week placement in Mombasa. This quickly changed and I was put at ease by all the staff that I encountered during my time there. 

The first half of my placement was spent in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. Under the supervision of Dr. Faiza Nassir, a consultant Obstetrician, I got to experience how obstetric care differs from back home. I found it tough at the beginning, as the conditions didn’t quite live up to what I was used to. The lack of resources was apparent from the beginning and often the doctors and midwives had to make do with what was available to them while treating such a huge number of patients coming through the door each day. As time went on, I was amazed by how much was possible with so little equipment. I got some great hands-on experience during this time, too. I was helping with antenatal clinics and neonatal care. I also got the chance to practice taking blood and inserting IVs, and of course delivering babies. I was nervous at the beginning because I was unsure of my own skill level, but the staff were very willing to teach me and supervise me so I could develop these skills.

The second half of my placement was in Internal Medicine, but the programme was fluid enough that I could spend some time in other departments, too. I spent time on the General Medicine ward, dialysis day unit, Radiology and the Emergency Department. This meant I got to see a huge variety of cases in the short time that I had left of my programme. Staff were always willing to introduce me to someone in a different department, if that’s where I had my interests. 

The Mombasa location turned out to be the perfect locations for me. Meeting lots of other students from different countries and different backgrounds made the whole programme really enjoyable. Multiple times during my placement, the coordinators organised dinners out, where we got to feel like true locals eating authentic Kenyan food which was delicious!

There were plenty of other activities organised by Elective Africa, too. They work closely with a very disadvantaged local school in the area, Pentrose Community School. We were given the opportunity to visit the school multiple times to teach and play with the children. I helped to teach them English and they in turn helped me to improve my Kiswahili. This was an incredibly rewarding experience, as we saw the poor conditions in which these children went to school each day, but also their excitement and enthusiasm that they were lucky enough to go to school. 

My placement in Mombasa was a truly unique experience and one that I will never forget. I got to develop my skills within the hospital, truly experience the Kenyan culture and made some friends that I believe will be for life. I would like to genuinely thank every person who made my experience so fulfilling and enjoyable, and I definitely plan on coming back!


Thea De Geus

University College Dublin