FSC Nursing Students Save Lives, Deliver Babies in Africa
FSC nursing students Anna Macaulay and Melissa Nadelman with the twins they helped deliver at Mount Meru Regional Hospital in Tanzania.
LAKELAND, Fla. (July 11, 2011) — In the city of Arusha, Tanzania, there are newborn twins named Anna and Melissa. Their mother named them after the two extraordinary Florida Southern College nursing students who delivered her babies during a hands-on clinical experience at Mount Meru Regional Hospital in Tanzania. During the month of May, three FSC students and Dr. John Welton, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, worked in a hospital in Africa to gain an entirely new perspective on healthcare in another country.
"We saw medical cases only seen in textbooks here in America. There was a great deal of trauma and other injuries that we had to treat while we were in a setting that had very basic equipment, medication, and other diagnostic tools," said Dr. Welton. "It was very challenging."
One student, Jared Simmons, worked in the Emergency Department (called Casualty in Tanzania) and faced a myriad of cases every day. The other two students, Anna Macaulay and Melissa Nadelman, were paired with midwives in the busy obstetrics unit and delivered 20-30 babies a day. The students personally delivered at least a dozen children while in Africa, including the twins who were born on their final day at the hospital.
The students witnessed and treated a multitude of injuries and diseases, despite a lack of supplies that are standard in American hospitals.
At the Tanzanian hospital, the team was faced with cases of rickets, malaria, and a host of other tropical diseases that are very rarely seen in the U.S. The students learned to treat these diseases while attending to other patient complaints in a facility with antiquated equipment that frequently broke down. In the hospital, patients often had to share beds because there were not enough for each person. Power outages at the hospital were so common that nurses kept kerosene lamps on hand to be able to care for their patients throughout the night. As Dr. Welton said, "We got our students out of their comfort zone. Now they see health care from a whole different perspective."
By working in a developing country with medical professionals from around the world, the students learned to surmount culture and language differences while providing treatment. They learned enough Swahili to be able to communicate with patients and they also came to understand the local Maasai tribe's cultural traditions. "Just because we are a rich nation, that doesn't mean we can impose our values and beliefs on other nations. The students learned to experience the culture and understand it on its own terms," said Dr. Welton.
Despite the many differences in supplies and facilities, Dr. Welton says the human connection between nurses is universal. One of the hospital's own nurses collapsed and passed away while the FSC students were present. They witnessed the entire hospital staff lining the halls, singing while they followed their departed friend and coworker to the morgue. Recalling the event, Dr. Welton became filled with emotion. "Nursing is essentially the same everywhere — we each strive to provide the best care possible for our patients. That event showed us the humanity and connecting spirit of nurses and all healthcare providers around the world."
The students were also able to witness the ravages of the crippling epidemic of AIDS. There were end-stage AIDS patients in the hospital for whom the nurses were unable to do much except make them as comfortable as possible. AIDS has claimed the lives of millions of Africans, leaving their grieving families and children behind, many of whom end up in orphanages. The FSC group visited one orphanage, which left a lasting mark on nursing student Anna Macaulay. "I will never forget the day that we went to the Paradiso orphanage and met the most beautiful children in the world. Most are AIDS orphans who have been taken in by a pastor and his family. 'Babu' (the Swahili word for grandfather) and 'Bibi' (grandmother) founded the orphanage and share the love of Christ with the children."
"The overwhelming success of this clinical placement will be measured by the lifetime of memories our students have of the experiences they took part in and the people they met in Tanzania," said Dr. Welton. "We look forward to many other opportunities around the world in the future." The School of Nursing and Health Sciences plans to continue clinical experiences for students in various countries, including Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. "We are thrilled to provide students with experiences to enhance their overall education. These trips give participants a better perspective on how to recognize differences between other cultures and other people, while also teaching them to seek out similarities as they learn from one another."
For more information about Florida Southern College's Florida Southern College's School of Nursing and Health Sciences, call 863.680.3951.
Reporter's note: To view photos of the students in Tanzania, please visit fsc.mocs photostream on Flickr.