Nursing In Ghana: Erika Ammond

I recently connected with Erika Ammond, a UAlberta student who graduated this past semester with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Erika spent the last part of her degree in Accra, Ghana doing her final placement as a Queen Elizabeth Scholar. During Erika's last few days in Accra, I had the privilege to ask her a few questions about her experience. 

 How did you hear about this opportunity and what was the application process like for you?

I heard about the opportunity for nursing students to travel abroad and complete their final clinical placement – their preceptorship – through my friend and fellow nursing student Karly back in our first year of the nursing program. This opportunity stems from a longstanding partnership between the Faculty of Nursing and the University of Ghana School of Nursing. For over 20 years, students have travelled to Accra, Ghana for the experience of a lifetime and have returned home as graduate nurses and greater global citizens. This year, my cohort and I were fortunate to have undertaken this opportunity as Queen Elizabeth Scholars with the support of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship.

It has actually been a full year since the Global Nursing Office began accepting applications for the 2018 Winter term. The application process was straight forward but essentially a leap of faith; no one had any idea what made a student “the right fit” or what attributes made a successful candidate. Those interested were asked to submit an application which listed details of their academic achievement, travel history, leadership experience, and personal growth throughout university. We were to also highlight what we hoped to gain from this experience and why we would excel in a global nursing opportunity. I wrote about my triumphs and tribulations as a nursing student, my time living overseas in Japan and other minor travel excursions, and the leadership skills I have gained through my involvement in my women’s fraternity, Alpha Gamma Delta – all of which have culminated into who I have become. I was thereafter chosen to meet with the selection committee for an interview, speaking candidly of myself and my experiences. Admittedly, I did not pay much mind to details of the interview afterwards, opting to focus on my plans for the summer while remaining confident that I would make the most out of any final practicum placement at home or abroad.

What were you most excited for before going to Ghana?

Ultimately, I was excited to finish my nursing degree and experience the true universality of nursing care. Nurses are unique in their ability to make an impact wherever they are placed, and it is important to me that I learn how to deliver safe, competent nursing care regardless of geographical or cultural context. Aside from graduating, though? Fresh mango and the heat of the sun.

What was something that you were nervous about?

I was nervous about living overseas in a place that I had no personal connection to. I wasn’t sure if I would ever surpass the challenge of culture shock and find comfort in adaptation if I was going abroad with a primarily academic purpose rather than a personal one. When I lived overseas in Japan, it felt like second nature to immerse myself into a new life and culture because I have always strongly identified as Japanese-Canadian. Before departing for Ghana, I really had to convince myself that I would be able to open up and let myself be influenced by the life and culture here. I can confidently say now that I have conquered the challenge, though, and that my connection to Ghana is personal and very real.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no typical day for me in Ghana. A day in Ghana is definitely not like a day in Canada, though, because of different cultural perceptions of time. My cohort and I quickly discovered and learned to embrace “Ghana time”: a lax and perhaps happy-go-lucky concept of time. Locals we’ve met and friends we’ve made joke that as North Americans, we take time too seriously. It does not always work to be clock-bound and rigid with schedule here like we are back home, so really, every day is a new and unpredictable day.

What has been the most rewarding or enjoyable experience?

It is so rewarding to feel connected to others through shared understanding of culture and language, so I feel so loved as a visitor of Ghana whenever I am referred to by my Ghanaian name. Many ethnic groups of Ghana, such as the Akan or Ewe, give people a “day name” based on the day of the week they were born –  I am called “Adwoa”, because I was born on a Monday!

What has been the most challenging experience?

Trying to accept that my life in Ghana has to come to an end (at least for now). No intercultural opportunity comes without the battle of reverse culture shock as you make your grand exit, but there is beauty in the challenge of re-grounding yourself upon return. I look forward to returning home, but at heart Ghana will always be a home to me, too.

What advice do you have for other nursing students interested in pursuing opportunities like this?

Learn what it means to be a global citizen, and take pride in being one. We have four years in our degree program to develop a sense of self within the nursing profession, so give yourself the chance to incorporate global health into your learning and practice to embed it into your fundamentals of nursing.

From the times I have spoken with students who have had the opportunity to study abroad, it is usually a very beneficial experience and if given the chance they recommend that others take it as well. It's especially recommended if you can be supported by a scholarship such as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee like Erika. Check it out on their website and see if it's something that could work for you!