10 Dec 2018

Volunteering in Ghana 6

Natalia wishes to become a pharmacist. To know more about how this profession is carried out in other countries, she volunteered in the pharmacy department at St Francis Xavier Hospital, in Ghana.

When I began volunteering, I hoped to learn more about the health sector in other countries, as I am planning to study pharmacy at university. Volunteering would allow me to develop my knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, and to gain more skills.

For as long as I can remember I have been involved in the health sector, and this has made me develop a great admiration for health professionals, which is why I want to make my contribution within this society. For this reason, I chose St. Xavier Francis Hospital as it provided me with the facilities to carry out this volunteering.

The journey

The journey from the UK to Ghana was a little bit crazy as it was my first time travelling alone for such a long flight, but Ghana received me with such a warm weather, especially when compared to the UK. This is when I realized that I was in another country, another continent! … and a million adventures were waiting for me.

Throughout the car journey, I was awestruck by the views: people selling food on the street and kids playing with bottles. I just could not stop thinking about how different my life is from theirs; simultaneously making me feel guilty and lucky at the same time.

Volunteering would allow me to develop my knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, and to gain more skills.

I arrived at the Sisters’ home and I immediately felt welcomed – adapting to life here was really easy as the sisters were caring, understanding and attentive to me, making me feel comfortable and at home in this new country. The house was beautiful with amazing views and lovely gardens, and the cooking was also well prepared by the Sisters.

The Pharmacy & Hospital

On my first day volunteering at the pharmacy, I was quite confused as they don’t rely on modern technology for prescriptions, or to monitor the stock of drugs, as we do in the UK. However, I discovered their method, although different, worked well by making sure that patients received their medication on time.

During my stay, I also learnt a lot about the role of the pharmacists at the hospital and their close relationship with the other health professionals. They work and communicate effectively to ensure that specific medications were used appropriately to achieve optimum results for their patients.
In addition to this, I was able to further my understanding of the importance of washing our hands to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and the importance of waste-disposal – which is one of the topics that captivated my attention.

The negative impact of waste on the environment and on people’s health is an on-going concern.

One of the biggest problems that I found in Ghana was the waste-disposal system: the negative impact of waste on the environment and on people’s health is an on-going concern. There is an inadequate waste infrastructure and inadequate operational funds to support waste management activities. Consequently, this increases the chance of spreading infectious diseases across the country. The hospital addressed this issue by implementing the advanced waste management programme which helped to minimise the negative impacts on the communities around which the waste was being deposited.

Some days at the pharmacy were really busy, and we had to cope with the overcrowding. Necessary medication was sometimes in short supply, making our job more stressful and difficult to manage, but we tried to do the best for our patients.

From my experience with working alongside the pharmacists at St. Francis Xavier Hospital, I can declare that being a pharmacist is not just about giving medication – it is a commitment to your patients, and there are many challenges to overcome every day. I had the privilege to attend a meeting where the pharmacists and the technicians discussed different topics in order to improve their work which, for me, highlighted the importance of teamwork.

Working at the pharmacy has intensified my desire to walk the path of a pharmacist. I have seen the crucial role that a pharmacist plays in improving the quality of people’s lives first hand. It will be an honour for me to be part of this community within this health sector.

I have seen the crucial role that a pharmacist plays in improving the quality of people’s lives first hand.

I also had the opportunity to visit other areas of the hospital. For example, I spent my time at the children ward sharing experiences and laughing with the children. This was one of the remarkable experiences I’ve had – it made me rethink my approach to life. From these children, I learnt to be thankful for everything I have, rather than to be unhappy about what I don’t have – this was only one of the lessons amongst many that I will always carry with me.

A Rewarding Experience

Developing academically, emotionally, and mentally in this country has been the most rewarding experience of my life and I am grateful to all people who made this possible, especially Sr. Josephine and Sr. Lourdes who gave me the opportunity to travel there and partake in this wonderful experience. Finally, I am thankful for my incredible family and friends who always encourage and support me.

PS: I want to thank all the staff at the pharmacy for being so kind and friendly to me. My stay would not have been the same without them. They made me laugh and made me feel like a part of the team – I will always treasure my time and the people there.