Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pediatrics at Tamale Teaching Hospital

We came into this week on Pediatrics at Tamale Teaching Hospital expecting to see some of the saddest stories imaginable. While that was true, our week was filled with an overwhelming sense of hope and positivity. For all of us, this week has been challenging and rewarding. Here’s just a snapshot of some of our experiences.

Most of the patients that are seen on this floor have multiple diagnoses, making them some of the most critical cases that we have experienced. The acuity of their illness is often because of how long families wait to bring them to the hospital due to cultural perception and barriers. These barriers can include finances, travel, previous experiences in the hospital and family obligations. While in Canada families contribute to care, in Ghana we have seen how much the health care system as a whole relies on families. They are required to buy medications, bring linens, provide food, do personal care, and organize medical testing.  All this while managing home responsibilities and work commitments.

Our Ghanaian colleagues and us on the peds floor at TTH
We were told about the resiliency and resourcefulness of our Ghanaian nursing colleagues, but what we witnessed this week on the Pediatric Ward at TTH blew these expectations away. At times, one nurse can be responsible for up to twenty critically ill patients. The limited amount of resources that nurses have access to, and we routinely take for granted, also challenges their level of care. These nurses are focused not on what they can’t do, but what they can do with what they have. Their scope is different from ours, but the standards of care they uphold are exceptional. Almost immediately, we made connections with these nurses that enabled us to have open and honest communication about issues and barriers in our respective health care systems. Nursing is universal, and the goal is to provide the best care for the patients in front of us. Through this, we are connected.
Us in our happy place!!!

Our underlying reason for being here is to teach, learn and deepen our understanding of global health. Not just with the medicine we deliver in the hospital, but by recognizing the impact of colonization. If we could heal the damage done by centuries of power displacement and hegemony we could repair the loss of culture, identity, health and autonomy. We have come into a low resource country, but we have seen how important the resource of family and community is. At home, we view resources as machines and “things”, whereas here their strongest resource is family and community. Being able to see the family-centred care being provided here has shown us how we can utilize it in our own health care system and nursing practice.

Alishia Huston, Andrea Kouwenhoven, Megan Lentz, Amanda March and Emily Plant

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