An elective in Kenya
When I decided to go to Mombasa, Kenya with Elective Africa, I had three years of medical training under my belt – one of which was clinical work. I was excited by the possibility of experiencing a culture much different from my own, and being able to provide care to patients in a limited resource environment. Culture shock is something you cannot prepare for, but must simply embrace and enjoy the experience.
I don’t specifically remember why I chose Mombasa, but I can tell you it was a good choice. Mombasa is a busy, friendly, exciting and beautiful city. There are beautiful beaches to explore. There are a number of restaurants and shops to see. The people of Mombasa are hardworking and welcoming.
The Coast Provincial General Hospital is the second largest hospital in Kenya. They provide all services and see a large number of patients. This allowed my peers and me to have a vast and rewarding experience. We were able to participate in the OB/GYN Department, assist with vaginal deliveries, cesarean sections and miscarriage management. We were also involved in the Emergency Department and Minor Theatre Surgical Department. Here is where we could triage and treat a variety of pathology. We were involved in a number of minor surgical procedures and many post-traumatic suturing. The staff at CPGH welcomed us and readily involved us in the care of the patients.
For a developing country healthcare system, it’s beneficial if you can bring a lot of supplies to the clinical setting where you will be rotating. We collected donations of gloves, sutures, surgical masks, tools, etc. We also had a fundraiser before we left, to raise money for donations while in Kenya. We donated some to the orphanage we visited, some to the hospital, and purchased an air conditioner for the Minor Theatre operating suite. The hospital is very different from most westernized facilities. There is no hand sanitizer outside every patient’s room. There are no patient rooms but wards with beds aligned against the wall. The windows and doors are open to the outside. There is no endless supply of equipment. Most things are reusable and not disposable.
While preparing for travel you’ll need: a checkup – you’ll need certain shots and prophylactic medications; approval from your school; a passport and a visa; a mosquito net for your bed, bug spray, sun block; all other general travel stuff.
Most importantly, be prepared to feel unprepared. You’ll frequently find yourself in situations you haven’t experienced before, and it is essential to remain calm, apply all of the years of training, collaborate with others and work your way through. This is a unique experience that will forever change your life, your perspective of medicine and the way you practice medicine in the future.