Chelsea Tweneboah ’15 was selected to receive an Enrichment Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. This funding helped support her work with Cape Coast Regional Hospital in Cape Coast, Ghana. Read Chelsea’s story below, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about our Enrichment Grants.
I have always had a passion of community service and traveling. So when it came to thinking about a potential career, International Health seemed like the best fit. Thus, every opportunity that I receive to gain an experience in this field is very valuable. This summer, I decided to work in a hospital in Ghana. I felt that by pursuing this internship, I would be challenging myself and would be able to determine if this was actually a career that I wanted to pursue.
Not having entered Medical School yet and embarking on this trip as an undergraduate, I was slightly nervous about the situations that I may face and how I would approach them. However, my ultimate goal was to absorb as much information as I could, even if it required that I would be observing most of the time. My internship was based at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital located in Cape Coast, Ghana. For approximately six weeks, I was granted the opportunity to rotate through several departments in order to gain insight to how each of them worked. The departments that I was able to work in were the Microbiology lab, Internal Medicine, the Emergency Room, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Female Surgery, and the Maternity Ward. At each department, I was able to work with the medical students from the University of Cape Coast as well as House Officers: medical students who were doing their residency.
A typical day at the hospital, depending on what department I was in, would be that I would arrive in the morning, do ward rounds with the medical students and the doctors, and then in the afternoon assist the nurses with their tasks such as administering drugs and giving out food. For the first two weeks, I mostly observed and listened to various cases and different treatments that would be administered to each case. Most often after work, I would often review these cases to gain a deeper understanding as well as understand why the doctors would take certain approaches toward their patients. Some of the interesting cases that I encountered was a young boy who had rabies, a middle aged woman with breast cancer, a young girl who had a rotten leg, a middle aged woman who had a serious boil located on her back, several young children who had sickle cell and anemia, a diabetes case, and a stroke case. I was mostly interested in seeing how these cases were approached, record them, and then eventually being able tp come back to the states and do a comparative analysis.
Through this process and I learned a significant amount that I thought I would have to wait many years to learn. The most significant part about the whole experience was that as time went on, I was trusted with more and more tasks. I was able to set up an IV line, administer IV fluids, assist in giving chemotherapy, clean and dress wounds, take vitals (blood pressure, temperature, and pulse), and draw blood. I was deeply grateful to the doctors and the patients for trusting and allowing me to carry out theses duties. Furthermore, I was able to develop meaningful relationships with the patients as well as the staff and in due time I was able to feel at ease with the hospital scene.
One lasting memory I had at the hospital that will always stick with me, was when I assisted on a case of a young girl who was about 6 years old. She was admitted into the emergency room with a high fever and joint pain. The doctors initially suspected a urinary tract infection, however with the test results, the diagnosis could not be confirmed. The hardest part about the whole process was watching the parents’ cry over what they did not know was causing their child to be in this state. A few days later the child was admitted to the pediatric ward for further care. Two weeks later, as I was taking lunch in the cafeteria, the mother of the child came up my fellow interns and I to tell us that her daughter has been discharged and although it was never determined what illness her child had, she was grateful that her daughter was able to get better. She wanted to thank us for looking after her daughter and doing all we can to make the process less stressful for them. At that moment, I realized what a difference I was able to make even if I was not yet a medical student. Additionally. I realized that these were the moments that drew me to health field. Several moments such as the aforementioned definitely made the internship valuable because it no longer just became an internship but goal to make a patient’s life that much healthier than when they walked entered the hospital.
Although there were good days at the hospital, there were also bad days. It was definitely heartbreaking to be looking after a patient and the next moment have the patient pass away. These moments were very much true for me and I found myself many times trying to overcome this by helping the other patients in the best possible way that I could. Sometimes, I would find myself getting angry because the difference between a person being alive and not was the availability of oxygen, and ECG machine, or even a CT scan. My hope is that in the future I will be able help increase the vital resources needed in this hospital.
All in all, I truly believe that this was one of the best internships I ever had. As an undergraduate I was treated with so much respect that I thought I would not receive, I was challenged and forced to come out of my comfort zone, and made friendships that I hope to keep with me throughout my future in medical school.
I am deeply grateful to the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship for supporting this opportunity. I simply had an idea and it was able to come to fruition. Thus thank you for making this wonderful experience possible.