Nursing Students Educate Tanzanian Residents
By Jenna Kosch, Megan Kraus, Melissa Feltz
Five students from the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing in Cincinnati, OH participated in an International Experience to Shirati, Tanzania in October 2010. The nursing students, Melissa Feltz, Brenda Hewitt, Jenna Kosch, Megan Kraus, Megan Moore, and their Professor, Tina Weitkamp, went with the service group Village Life Outreach Project (VLOP). Village Life Outreach Project is an official non-profit organization based out of Cincinnati, Ohio whose mission is to unite communities to promote life, health and education. Most of there work is based in East Africa, in which they send a group of physicians, residents, medical students, pharmacists, pharmacy students, nurses, and nursing students to Shirati, Tanzania twice a year. In Tanzania, the group sets up mobile health clinics in three neighboring villages. The three villages include Burere, Nyambogo, and Roche. These health clinics provide some of the village residents with the only healthcare that they will ever receive. During each of the six mobile health clinic days, the group treated about ninety people with many illnesses including malaria, intestinal parasites, fungal and parasital rashes, dehydration, schistosomiasis, abscesses, and joint pain.
Along with assessing and treating patients, the nursing students also developed an educational resource book on intrapartum and postpartum maternal and neonatal care. The students then presented the books and delivered an hour lecture to three village health committees. The objective of the group’s work is to provide education as well as sustainable educational materials to the health committees in Roche, Nyambogo, and Burere in hopes of improving outcomes related to maternal and fetal health. All of the books were translated into Swahili, offering pictures and informative text explaining how women can stay healthy during pregnancy, prevent malaria, watch for warning signs of a complicated pregnancy, and know when it is imperative for pregnant women to visit medical personnel. The nursing students went over the material in the book with the health committees, and then gave each committee four copies to keep as a resource for all the community members. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the lecture, the students asked the committee members three questions before and after the lecture. The questions that were asked are:
1. When should pregnant women go see a physician or medical personnel?
2. What should pregnant women do to stay healthy?
3. What is the most effective way to use a mosquito net?
Before the lecture, the members gave fragmented and broad answers to the questions depicting that they did not have much information regarding pregnancy. After the lecture, the members were able to give detailed and specific answers to each question, and were repeating most of the information that was given to them. The committee members were very involved with the class, asked many inquisitive questions about pregnancy, and were enthusiastic to have educational resources to refer back to. For further evaluation, maternal and neonatal mortality rates for the year 2011 will be compared to past maternal and neonatal mortality rates of each village.
The nursing students found the international experience to be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about global health, improve on assessment and critical thinking skills, educate on a community level, work as an interdisciplinary team member, and learn about a new culture and way of life. One nursing student, Megan Kraus says:
"Being able to interact with the villagers in the remote communities was an indescribable experience. We were able to educate them regarding maternal health, an area of health care that is commonly neglected in those areas. I am optimistic that the resources we provided will have a positive impact on maternal health outcomes."
Jenna Kosch, another nursing student, reports that living in a new culture with a completely different way of life showed her how important it is to be open-minded to new ideas and ways to live. She says:
“Being able to help others in need and share my passion of nursing in another country/culture is extraordinary experience that I will never forget. Sharing knowledge with the enthusiastic health committee members’ and seeing their excitement when we gave the educational books, gave me confirmation that we have impacted the group and hopefully the health of the whole community. Living in a different culture has taught me the importance of cultural competency and community nursing. We traveled thousands of miles to teach a community, but in reality, we were the ones that learned a new way to think and have gained a new outlook on life!”
Another student connected her experience back to lessons learned early on in her nursing career. Missy Feltz reflected in saying:
“It was fulfilling to return to what I can only describe as the roots of nursing practice. I remember thinking as we were working with people in need and holistically viewing patient, family, and community, ‘Now this is what nursing is about!’ Each patient was unique and, although it occasionally felt like controlled chaos in those clinics, we really had the time to literally sit and take invested interest in each villager. When I think of Africa, I will always think of the striking smiles and the words of appreciation divulged by all of those who left the clinic.”