An account of my experiences living and working in Accra, Ghana, on the Ghana-SickKids Paediatric Nurse Training Program
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Ok I am officially a lazy blogger. But I think one post per week isn't too bad, no?
Church on Wheels
Over the weekend, Pat and I took a quick trip to Takoradi, about 4-5 hours drive west of Accra. The bus trip was only 9 Cedis (about 6 US dollars) which I thought was a great deal! The bus was relatively comfortable, same as a big coach bus at home. But the amazing deal was challenged when a man hopped on the bus at the start of the trip and stood in the aisle, preaching from the bible and singing songs to everyone. He seemed very unassuming at first, but once he whipped out his bible I knew it was time for me to get out my ipod. The other passengers seemed to be totally into it, but Pat and I were not. I'm all for people enjoying their own religion on their own time, but for over an hour on a slightly cramped bus it is not too pleasant.
The place we stayed at (Safari Beach Resort) was awesome, it is an eco-resort with self-composting toilets and outdoor showers, 4-poster beds and mosquito nets. This may not seem very luxurious to most of you, but it was really very comfortable and relaxing. The food was amazing, and the beach was pristine. Unfortunately we only had Saturday evening and Sunday morning on the beach, and then had to head back to the city. It was worth it though, even just to have a few hours lying in the sun and listening to the waves.
I have been working at Korle Bu teaching hospital in Accra this week. My day is split between the pediatric general surgical unit, the orthopedic unit, and the burns/plastics unit, and I have 6 students with me for the day. We have seen many of the same things I see at home, and I was totally in my element when we admitted a postop appendectomy this morning. The ortho unit is kind of sad though, it is busting at the seams with kids in traction, and parents are only allowed to visit during designated visiting hours, which are pretty much 0800-0900, 1200-1300, and 1600-1700. That makes for a lot of crying during the day, and I don't really understand the rationale for having it that way. At home, I am used to parents being at the child's bedside 24 hours a day. The only reason the nurses gave me for the restricted visiting hours is that "the mothers cause problems". Nobody cared to elaborate on what these problems are, and I think it all just depends on who is in charge of the unit, because the burns/plastics/general surgery units all had parents present. This is one thing I hope that the students will take from this program, to challenge the rules and restrictions that have been in place for years and open their minds to more efficient and family-centered ways of providing holistic care. I never thought I'd be the one going on and on about "family centered care", something we are so sick of hearing at SickKids, but when you see kids suffering without their parents around, or see a mom crying because she wants to take her dying baby home and palliative care is not a concern to the doctors/nurses, it really strikes a chord.
Students learning about pulmonary
function tests and asthma
Children's Block at Korle Bu
All sadness aside, I have really enjoyed being a part of this program. As the students have learned from me, I have learned from them. Their compassion and enthusiasm is like none I have seen before, and so they really can improve nursing in Ghana. Even in only these 5 weeks working with my 11 students, I can see changes happening within them. Not only have they learned a lot clinically, but their confidence in their assessments and when working with doctors has grown. Discussions between nurses and doctors here are usually unilateral, and the nurses are often not respected enough to give recommendations or challenge things, even if they have been working for 25+ years in the same unit. I would love to bring them all to Canada and let them see the way things work at SickKids! (If you work there, you know how much you have taught new medical residents, and even sometimes staff physicians!)
I will be leaving Ghana with a heavy heart on Friday, but will have fond memories of everything I have experienced here. And I will miss the random biblical references on store signs and taxis. I can't wait to try to make some Ghanaian food when I get home (Jed, can you please pick up a giant bag of dried beans?) and go through my pictures. And although I'm sad to leave, I will be happy to be home to my normal everyday life, and I'm even happy to go back to work :)
I hope to see you all soon, and thanks for reading! (and no, I will not be continuing this blog... nobody wants to hear my rambling on a regular basis)