Miriam scrubs up at Ghana hospital

PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 September 2011

Mirium scrubs in during a hernia repair surgery.

Mirium scrubs in during a hernia repair surgery.

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Medical student hones her skills volunteering in Ghana.

AN AXMINSTER medical student has spent a month working as a volunteer at a hospital in Ghana.

Miriam Hillyard recently returned from her overseas work experience, where she was given the opportunity to hone her medical skills.

The former Woodroffe School student is currently studying a six-year medical degree at St John’s College in Oxford and will be embarking on her clinical studies this month.

She told the Midweek Herald that the experience has inspired her to do more humanitarian work in the future and she hopes to specialise in the areas of obstetrics, gynaecology and sexual health.

The 22-year-old spent a month volunteering in Ghana where she was based at the Central Regional Hospital in Cape Coast in the obstetrics and gynaecology department and on the female surgical ward.

She said: “Initially, I was quite shocked by the conditions at the hospital - endless rows of people patiently waiting hours and hours for an appointment, and then often three overstretched doctors would see and examine three individual patients at the same time in one small room. On the wards, for patients who were very ill or recovering from surgery, medications seemed sometimes in short supply.”

The day would start at 8am and she would accompany doctors on their rounds and learn how to perform routine procedures, including taking vital signs, locating a foetal heartbeat and dressing post-operative wounds.

She also went to outpatient clinics, observed surgical procedures and helped treat a local leper colony, where she disinfected and dressed the wounds of the sufferers.

Miriam was able to ‘scrub in’ and assist with some of the operations, which she says was a real privilege, and was lucky enough to witness many newborn babies coming into the world.

“I knew I wanted to do some volunteer work, which had long been a dream of mine. Initially, I was planning to go and volunteer at a charity birth centre in the Philippines, Mercy In Action, but sadly it burned down just before I had booked my flights there.

“I settled on Ghana, mainly because the official language is English and I had always wanted to visit Africa.”

She raised the money for the volunteering project from her saved earnings from weekend jobs as well as donations from charities, groups and individuals in Axminster.

The experience has been very beneficial and helped Miriam perfect her clinical skills ready to tackle her next year of study as the 22-year-old explained.

“As a result of having learned many new clinical skills and seen a huge range of diseases and complications, I am more confident in starting my clinical studies back in Oxford and really looking forward to it.

“I hope I positively impacted on the lives of the patients I saw out there.”

Miriam is considering returning to Ghana as part of her ten week medical elective and wishes to thank everyone from Axminster for their generosity in helping her to fulfil her dream of volunteering.


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