Serve Again in Kenya and Tanzania
By Anne Baker on Monday, December 5th, 2011
The NPCA community is an incredible bunch! From those just starting Peace Corps service to those who have retired after a long career, we have amazing skills to continue to put to good use in service to the world.
One of our on-going efforts, supported by Johnson & Johnson, is in nursing education at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. To give you a sense of their work and its impact, some of last year’s volunteers shared some short vignettes on their experiences.
A Small Investment with a Big Return
When Angela Albright, an Encore nurse volunteer, helped the Chief of Nursing at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kenya to survey nurses and patients, little did she know that it would be a major tool in advancing patient care. The questionnaires measured patient satisfaction and nurse perceptions of their work environment. Both the quality of patient care and the nurses’ satisfaction in their role were seen as in need of examination. The survey identified areas for improvement and provided data for the Chief Nurse to be able to get support from administration to create a program to upgrade nursing skills and highlight and reward outstanding nursing care. For Angela, sharing her skills resulted in dividends much greater than she ever imagined. Angela also conducted workshops with the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital Training Center on curriculum development. The Training Center is rolling out a strong Critical Care Certification course that is founded on curricular principles.
A Picture is Worth More than Words
Audio-visual aids, equipment and textbooks are something we take for granted in teaching basic nursing skills. This is not the case in even large teaching hospitals in Kenya. Because of the design of the curriculum at Moi University, both nursing and medical students receive instruction in patient care skills in the same small classroom. There are no manuals, very little equipment, and limited access to teaching staff. Instruction for procedures are copied and given to students, but the instructions are most often in narrative form with no diagrams to show proper placement, etc. To remedy this issue, Ruth Brink, an Encore nurse volunteer, worked with the Moi faculty member responsible for the skills lab and together they created protocols to demonstrate a variety of procedures. It is planned that large posters will hang on the walls in the skills lab to provide graphic instructions to both nursing and medical students.
Taking the Stigma out of Mental Illness
As is true in almost every country in the world, mental health is the most stigmatized of all the illnesses. This is definitely the case in Kenya where surveys have shown that the majority of people believe that it is caused by witchcraft, spells, and/or is due to cerebral malaria. While the Moi University nursing students didn’t necessarily hold this view, it was clear they were not sure what to believe or how to interact with patients. Psychiatric nurse, Karen Babich, Encore nurse volunteer, took on this challenge. She gave a series of lectures on the neuroscience of the common mental illnesses and the care needed, modeled patient-nurse therapeutic interactions, and held open discussions about various aspects of behavior. As a result of this experience students indicated that they had moved from psychiatric nursing being their least likely choice of practice areas after graduation to thinking it is a very interesting and important area of medicine. Best yet, one-third of this senior class of nurses is seriously considering it as their area of specialization.
From 2010 to 2012, the National Peace Corps Association administered a pilot Joint Project with Encore Service Corps International that has now ceased operations, so this program is no longer active. Click here to learn more.