How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA? They were incredibly helpful and prompt in answering all of our questions. They kept us informed of all the things relevant to our trip (especially the sudden step increase in visa fees) well ahead of our departure. I am overall very pleased with them.
How was work at the local hospital? What were you able to do as a medical volunteer?
What was your favorite memory of this trip? Shadowing was a big part of this experience and with that came a significant amount of new knowledge. We were able to assist (hands on) in various departments, primarily maternity, minor theater, and the lab. The physicians and general medical staff were very eager to teach us, pimping us with questions at every opportunity, and even letting us do parts of the physical exam.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced? Not knowing the language very well was definitely the most difficult part. While the physicians spoke English very well, the patients did not, so patient interaction was kept at a minimal simply because we couldn’t communicate with one another.
What was the one thin you wished you were better prepared for? Aside from knowing more of the language, I wish I would have brought more basic diagnostic tools with me. We bought several duffel bags full of donated medical supplies, but never thought to bring things like extra blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, otoscopes, and various other things. We went off the assumption that they would have these “basic” tools.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc) Bring your diagnostic kits and consider donating them or getting classmates/physicians/reps to donate them or parts of them. Other medical supplies will also be greatly appreciated, especially syringes and IV kits. Africa in the summer is cool, so bring a jacket and long pants (especially for nights and early morning). A safari is a must- we recommend Sunny Safaris Outfitters for great budget safaris not too far from Arusha. Don’t come with too many expectations and be ready to “go with the flow”; it will be so much more enjoyable that way. Oh, and listen to the physicians/medical staff- you’ll learn more than you realize at the moment
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial): This has been a great experience, especially at the start of my medical career. Like any medical student, I initially would have enjoyed more hands-on opportunities, but soon realized I really do not know enough at this point in my career and these patients deserve the best available care. I didn’t realize how much I had actually learned and seen while I was there until I returned for my second year of medical school. Those physicians, patients, and overall experiences have already helped this semester me in ways I never thought possible. And for that I am thankful. The overall experience has reminded me of why I went into this profession and has given me more motivation to make it through these next 3 years.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? Yes
Nicole Volunteer in Arusha, Tanzania