Friday, March 24, 2017

Emerg at TTH

Walking into the Emergency Department at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, our senses were assaulted. The air hung heavy and still, the smells were overpowering and a heart rate monitor was pinging loudly. However, we were immediately oriented to the floor with a warm and welcoming nurse named Doris, who guided us through the triaging system. As soon as we introduced ourselves, the heart rate monitor began to alarm noisily behind us and a couple of us gravitated towards the noise to see if we could help. A male nurse, David, began to work on the male patient and allowed us to assist him. He quizzed us right off the bat and would later become our primary mentor. We even managed to teach him a thing or two, despite his high level of skill and knowledge.

The hospital is reserved only for the sickest patients. According to nursing staff and students, Ghanaians use the hospital as their last resort. This can be due to a preference for traditional healing, inability to cover medical costs, lack of family support, and fear of hospitals. Some of the common limitations to care were the inability to provide medications until the patient or family paid for them, lack of equipment and language barriers. However, family support in the emergency department was commonplace and frankly, essential. Almost every patient had a loved one at their bedside, washing them up, providing food, paying for medications, going to get the medication, and even arranging diagnostic tests such as running the blood samples to the lab. Where we have auxiliary staff at home, such as porters, dietary and care aids, they have family. At home in Canada, family is discouraged from gathering in the Emergency Department and we are quick to ask loved ones to leave when procedures are being done. There is still much work to be done at home in terms of family centered care. Here at the ED in Ghana, nurses recognize that they could not do their jobs without the support of families.

Although the conditions in the ED were less than ideal, nurses here show amazing resilience and collaboration. We now have a greater appreciation for the resources and systems established at home. We will take what we have learned here at the Tamale Teaching Hospital and incorporate it into our practice back home in Canada.

Posted by:  Jade Geddes, Emma Miller, Carolyn Grinham and Jessica Sherbinin

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