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Day in the life: The Gambia

The average day begins with an early morning walk to the hospital. Surgeries begin around 8am and sometimes continue into the evening. Weeknight dinners are at restaurants close to our hotel, or perhaps at the hotel itself, so the team can relax together and socialize.


Our work day in The Gambia begins with a simple, help-yourself breakfast in our communal kitchen. This might consist of muesli or granola and plain yogurt or milk accompanied by fresh local bread (called “government” bread) and peanut butter and/or jam.


The fruit selection depends on the season, but bananas are a constant. Eggs are available for anyone who wants to cook themselves an egg breakfast.  Everyone is responsible for washing their own dishes – particularly scrambled egg pans!

There will be pots of hot French press coffee. 


It is a 30-minute walk to the hospital and the team will leave the hotel at 7 a.m. Local transportation is available for those who can’t, or prefer not to, walk to work.

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GambiaRX (8 of 37).jpg

Arrival at the hospital

On arrival at the hospital, team members all pitch in to bring supplies downstairs from the second-floor change room/supply room/lunch room. Everything we expect to need for the day is brought down in shopping bags: anesthesia supplies and drugs; surgical instruments, sutures, gowns and drapes; PAR supplies. Intake office uses plastic bins for its portable office.


While the anesthesiologists, OR and PAR nurses and Intake are setting up, the surgeons round on patients on the ward. Either the intake clerk or the PAR nurse will check to see if today’s patients are on hand. Sometimes the patients will be waiting outside the Operating Theater building; most often they will have been admitted to the surgical ward the evening before. The ward will have our charts for the patients admitted. The other charts will be on file with Intake.


Most of The Gambian staff arrive somewhat later than we do as they must rely on a public transportation system of bush taxis and gelli-gellis (crowded passenger vans). 

Typical Surgical Day

We try to start the first surgery as close to 8 a.m. as possible; we do long, complex cases, and  turnover time between them is longer than at home.  Sometimes equipment failures, power outages or other unexpected events lengthen our day. It is common for our surgical slates to be considered full with only two cases. 


After a surgery is completed, and the patient recovered in the PAR, hospital employees – or any of us who are available – will transfer the patient to the surgical ward. This involves moving the patient and bed out of the Theater building, across an open courtyard and up a winding ramp to the second-floor surgical ward.


Lunches will be provided, and we generally eat in shifts in our room upstairs.


 After the last case of the day, the OR nurses pick the next day’s cases while PAR recovers the patient. Intake delivers tomorrow’s patient charts and surgical schedule to the surgical ward. Laundry (scrubs, patient gowns, PAR sheets) is gathered and deposited in a basket for pickup


Many team members like to walk home if it is still light enough to do so in safety. On late nights, and for those who prefer not to walk, transportation is provided.


Weeknight dinners will be at restaurants close to our hotel, or perhaps at the hotel itself, so the team can relax together and socialize.

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