Hospitals and health care in Tanzania can be really different from what you are used to in your home country. Usually, access to healthcare will depend on a person’s income, since insurance isn’t common. It can be interesting for interns and volunteers to experience the clinical routine in a country like Tanzania since resources can be limited. The Meru District Hospital is a large governmental hospital with a capacity of 110 in-bed patients. On an average day, over 200 patients are cared for. The hospital covers all areas of modern medical care. Among others, there are wards for pediatrics, HIV & AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. As well as eye and dental care, mental health and physiotherapy, a maternity ward and over 1,000 surgeries performed annually.
Your day begins as being part of the daily ward rounds at 9am. In agreement with the matron, you will decide which ward you work in depending on your previous knowledge and interest. This means that your daily work load and work times depend on your specialization and on the demand of the hospital. A usual work day ends at 4pm and you will be required to work five days a week (Monday to Friday). If you are interested, it’s possible to work on Saturdays too. Under the guidance of the local doctors and care takers, you will take over various tasks such as patient care, deliveries in the women’s ward or assistance with operations. For all interns and volunteers from the hospitals an individual work plan will be discussed so that you know exactly what your tasks are and what ward you will be active in, so optimal care can be guaranteed.
Previous experience is a mandatory requirement. In order to work here, you have to be a qualified nurse, a current Med student or a graduated doctor of any specialization. Furthermore, you should be vaccinated against all major diseases when working in a hospital. Working here does involve additional costs for the use of the materiel/instruments and your incorporation and management. For a stay of up to six weeks, you are asked to pay $150, with $50 of it being covered by your project donation. Each additional month will cost $50.
I volunteered with Mt. Meru District Hospital through Viva Tanzania for four weeks. When I first arrived, Viva Tanzania helped me get my volunteer visa set up and introduce me to the hospital. Volunteering with the hospital is organized much as it would be in ‘Western’ hospitals. The hospital let me choose what area I wanted to work in, and I then met with their volunteer coordinator who had me write a statement of intent for what I wanted to learn and experience throughout my time there. The staff were very friendly, and I was even invited to a nurse’s home for dinner. The volunteer coordinator and the Viva Tanzania staff regularly checked in with me to make sure I was having a good experience. There are many jobs that both people with professional degrees, students, and others can do – as professional staff often are involved in cleaning, decorating, etc. The nurses were very excited to teach me how to mop because, obviously, Americans do not know how to mop. I also observed and aided in other duties. Although I spent the majority of my time volunteering in the Reproductive Health Clinic, I was also able to observe major and minor surgeries. (I did help some. I adjusted the surgeon’s headlamp as the power was out.) Knowledge of Kiswahili would be useful but not required. This would be great place for an internship or rotations for a medical or nursing student. Jennifer, 23, Germany.