For my STP elective I volunteered for the charity Sound Seekers who aim to improve audiological care for people in developing countries. I spent six weeks in The Gambia identifying training and equipment needs, providing on the job and classroom based teaching and helping to develop some protocols to standardise the care being provided. I would recommend to anybody who has the opportunity to do an elective volunteering abroad to jump at this chance, as I found it extremely worthwhile and interesting. As well as allowing me to experience a healthcare system in a developing country this experience also enabled me to develop skills I will need in my future career as a healthcare scientist such as managing a team, providing training, writing protocols, identifying ways to improve the care pathway for patients and implementing solutions. It also significantly improved my problem solving skills due to the problems I experienced with calibrating equipment, very hot and humid conditions and frequent power cuts.
I worked closely with Sound Seekers before embarking on my elective. They estimated that I needed at least £2,000 to cover all my costs but I actually managed to fundraise £3,500. I had collection boxes in the waiting room at work which raised a significant portion of the money and was kindly given a grant by the Hear the World Foundation. There were no visa requirements for The Gambia – however Sound Seekers looked into this for me and organised all of my flights and accommodation. I arranged my immunisations and those not covered for through the NHS I paid for using the money I had fundraised.
Before leaving for The Gambia I was given some official outcomes by Sound Seekers which we had agreed together and used these to help form my learning outcomes for the OLAT.
A Sound Seekers project manager stayed with me for the first week to help me get started and they were accessible via email, Skype, WhatsApp and various other forms of social media if I had any problems after the first week.
Laura Finegold, Audiology STP trainee, King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor