Tips for medical volunteers

Art in Tanzania works with numerous health care facilities in Tanzania, varying from big hospitals to small community clinics. Medical volunteering or interning in Tanzania is an eye-opening and educational experience for both current and future medical professionals. One of our professional medical volunteers listed some useful tips for future volunteers based on her experiences:

Medical volunteer in Tanzania

  • The roles at hospitals are the same as in the Western world, but the resources are very different. High respect for the local medical staff and their good job despite the limited resources!
  • You will see and experience a lot of things which at home you could only read from books. You will be having a hard time seeing people die of simple diseases that in Western countries could be cured with just better nutrition and hygiene. It’s very educational to realize that you can only do a small fraction and not save the whole world.
  • You will be able to participate in the hospital’s/clinic’s daily life in many ways. Depending on your level of studies and profession, one day you’ll be assisting in a surgery and the next folding bandages with nurses.
  • Patient records are kept in paper files. Therefore there is no excess paperwork or endless sitting in front of computer screen, so there will be more time left for actual work with the patients.
  • The work days involve a lot of waiting and long lunch breaks that can sometimes feel frustrating and inefficient, but that’s the way things are done here and it’s just something you will have to get used to.
  • Thoughts about a Westerner coming here to tell how things should be done should be thrown in the dustbin. The work is done together, learning from each other. What works in Western countries doesn’t necessarily work here. The most important thing is to abandon your prejudices and “everything’s better at home”-attitude and try to be open-minded towards the new culture!
  • Before your trip it’s good to determine your motives and goals, as that way it’s easier to help and learn.Medical volunteer at Mbweni hospital
  • Keep your eyes open, make observations and ask lots of questions.
  • After all, health care is always about people and their wellbeing. As a health care professional you donate the patients part of your time, knowledge and skills regardless to where in the world you are. Despite the limited resources there’s always something you can do -listen, learn and support!
  • It’s a good idea to study the basics of the local language beforehand, and you will learn more in the work.
  • If you wish to get involved in making diagnosis and treatment decisions, it’s a good idea to do research on at least the most common diseases; malaria, diarrhea etc., and also on tropical diseases in general.
  • Bring your own scrubs to wear, and if possible, bring with you disposable gloves, facemasks or other healthcare equipment to donate.

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