Adult Nursing Elective Placements in Zambia

BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing

Major Chris Carter in the Defence School of Healthcare Education took a group of military nursing students on a three-week elective scholarship to Zambia. This experience was facilitated by the Lusaka College of Nursing in Zambia.  

The students had to go through a competitive selection process and a group of six successful candidates was selected, including Alexander Ball, Casey Petch, Shannon Murphy, Hannah Lewis, Frances Metson, Oliver Jenkin and Casey Petch.

Motivation to go abroad

Zambia flag

 “I joined the Army with intentions of contributing my nursing skills worldwide. I have always been passionate about Africa which left me feeling very fortunate when the opportunity arose to be able to do an elective nursing placement in Zambia. This was also an opportunity to gain exposure to conditions that are not commonly seen in the UK and problems they face, such as malnutrition and malaria something we take for granted with our healthcare system.” Hannah Lewis

An opportunity not to be missed

“I have always wanted to visit Africa so I jumped at the opportunity to visit Zambia. As a military student nurse I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to gain an insight into the medical care provided in a developing country and how when resources are limited they are able to care and provide treatment for their patients.” Shannon Murphy

Bespoke training

“We completed a lot of pre-departure training where I learnt a lot of new skills in preparation for the trip, such as immediate life support, midwifery skills and tropical medicine for example. As a military student nurse it was a great opportunity to gain exposure to nursing in the developing world and how the nurses manage in a resource limited environment. I was able to gain a better knowledge of caring for patients who had experienced trauma or burns as I haven’t had much exposure to this in the UK. My experience of the hospital definitely tested my emotional resilience and has made me very appreciative of our healthcare system in the UK. Overall I feel better prepared for my future as a nurse in the Army.” Shannon Murphy

An eye-opening experience

“Whilst nursing in Zambia was an eye-opening experience, I was lucky enough to spend 5 days on the intensive care unit. This was my first experience on ICU and I feel I have learned many transferable skills that I can continue to use throughout my nursing career. We were exposed to situations involving children and babies which as adult nurses this is something we aren't used to. I very much enjoyed this learning curve.” Hannah Lewis

What the students enjoyed the most

“Soaking up the culture, visiting some of the country and speaking with the patients and patient families.” Casey Petch

“As well as working in the hospital, one of my favourite days we were able to spend an afternoon at an orphanage where we took a bag of toys are games donated from our friends and family in the UK. As a keen traveller we were also able to spend a weekend in Livingstone and visited the Victoria Falls. We travelled 600km there in a tiny minibus, but it was an amazing opportunity to see life in rural Zambia and wildlife on the journey.” Shannon Murphy

Similarities and differences between Zambia and the UK

 “Although the students are taught similar subject matter to us, they are not taught to critically think or question procedures. Nurses will wait for a doctor to tell them what to do, instead of escalating concerns/ problems and being an advocate for patients. This was very hard to witness especially when patients began to deteriorate.” Casey Petch

“In Zambia the student nurses train in a nursing school and go on placements around the hospital. At the University Teaching Hospital the students were mainly studying for 4 years but once qualified are able to practice as a nurse or midwife. We were able to sit in on a 2nd year lesson and found it was very comparable to what we had just learnt in our lectures at BCU.

In the hospital there was no escalation process if a patient was deteriorating and the nurses wait for a doctor to see the patient before any nursing care can be provided. Another difference is once qualified as a nurse in Zambia there is no continued professional development like we have in the UK. In Zambia the family are much more involved in the patients care and a family member is always present with the patient in order to wash, feed and care for the patient to help the nurses.” Shannon Murphy

Advice to students considering going abroad

“Soak up as much culture as you can, speak to locals about the care they receive, and what outcomes they expect. Find out about the people you are treating and take the time to listen to them, as you will be one of the only people to speak to them that day. Nurses are very under staffed and therefore cannot give much individual time to patients, which can affect the overall care the patient receives and the patients’ experience of their stay.” Casey Petch

“Definitely take this fantastic learning opportunity. If I had the power, I would make it a compulsory activity. It will not only motivate your nursing career but allow you exposure to different healthcare environments and once in a lifetime opportunity such as visiting orphanages and sightseeing the beautiful Victoria Falls” Hannah Lewis