Students take Tanzanian trip
Five nursing students recently had an opportunity to work in very different, and often challenging, healthcare environment when they undertook a fieldwork placement in one of the poorest countries in the world, Tanzania.
The students were part of a volunteer program, the Global Health Alliance WA, which is funded by the Health Department. The alliance supported a group of 20 nursing students from Curtin, Notre Dame, ECU and Murdoch, and four supervisors, to travel to Tanzania and work in a range of urban and rural settings.
Tanzania has an estimated population of 50 million, the largest in East Africa, and a significant proportion of Tanzanians live below the poverty line. Malnutrition is widespread, and other critical health issues include malaria, cholera, HIV/AIDS and maternal child health.
Access to healthcare is typically limited by socioeconomic status and location, and hospitals and clinics are often poorly resourced. Prior to the students’ departure, the four universities raised funds to purchase essential medical supplies, such as thermometers for the hospitals they’d have placements in, and resources for the Tanzanian community including toothbrushes, books and sanitary pad kits.
Amanda McCallum, Fieldwork Coordinator, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, and one of the supervisors in Tanzania, said the trip was an invaluable experience for students, albeit quite confronting at times.
“The poverty, lack of resources and limitations in health care were challenging. Students had to learn to be resourceful. The conditions really highlighted the students’ compassion for people and their passion for health and providing good quality health care, despite the lack of resources,” she said.
The students were made very welcome by the Tanzanian communities they were working with, and they were exposed to range of clinical experiences in urban and remote areas.
“The students spent time nursing in the tertiary hospital, Muhambili National Hospital, and the district hospital, Amana, in the following areas: Emergency Department, Theatre, Paediatric Burns Clinic, Mental Health Clinic and Inpatients, Paediatric Unit and Neonatal Care,” Amanda said.
“They also spent two days in the remote Masanganya clinic, where they delivered some of the sanitary pad kits, and educated women on how to use them, conducted health and HIV checks on children, health check-ups on infants, taught teeth-brushing and conducted health assessments on adults.”
The collaboration between the four universities offers students an excellent opportunity to work productively together prior to graduation from their respective courses.
“The partnerships between the universities and the students prepares them for entry into the work force, as a majority of the students are due to graduate this year and will soon be work colleagues,” Amanda said.
“All the students really enjoyed the experience, they learnt to adapt to challenging conditions and worked well within a team. It made them appreciate the resources we have in Australia, and they made lifelong friends.”