Friday, March 20, 2015

"You Are Welcome Here"

This week (our first week in Mongu, Zambia) Amanda and I were placed on the Female Ward at Lewanika General Hospital. The Female Ward is comprised of both medical and surgical patients which is different from how patients are categorized in Canada. Amanda and I were both very nervous for our first day. We had no idea what to expect and no idea what we could contribute to the ward. 

Amanda and Jessica outside the Female Ward at Lewanika General Hospital. 

We felt lost the minute we walked on to the ward so we decided it would be beneficial to do rounds with the Medical Doctor. He was receptive to having us follow him around and instantly we found ourselves doing and learning skills that we had never experienced as nursing students in Canada. For example, reading X-Rays!! Honestly, being quizzed on something you have never learned before was unbelievably nerve wracking but by the end of the week we had learned so much more than we imagined possible. 

We were amazed at the depth of knowledge the doctor provided and how thorough he was with examining his patients. In Canada, though a doctor may check in with their patient, they may not do an assessment with every encounter. It was refreshing to see the doctors take so much time doing comprehensive assessments everyday and taking the time to address patient concerns. The medical rounds lasted anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the day. We found rounds took longer on the days that we were involved because the doctor spent so much time quizzing and teaching us. Medical students also participated in rounds with us and it was interesting to see the differences between our knowledge bases. For example, Amanda and I knew very little about Malaria but we know more about conditions like heart failure and intestinal obstruction. 

The next day we did surgical rounds with one of the surgeons. It was nice to experience the different types of teaching and recognize how both styles were effective in different ways to support our learning.

After surgical rounds I (Amanda) went to check out the "operating theater" which is the Zambian term for the operating room here.

I happened to catch an orthopedic doctor as he was heading in for surgery and asked if I could come and observe. 

The first surgery I observed was a fixation of a fractured ankle. When I finished there was a child needing a laparotomy so I ended up staying for that one as well. The minute I entered the Operating Theatre I felt very welcome. The anesthetist, the surgeon, the scrub nurse, essentially everyone in the theater, welcomed me with no questions asked! I was so overwhelmed by the support I received from all the people in Operating Theatre, I felt as if I was on Cloud 9!

Amanda with the amazing Operating Theatre team! 

Amanda and her sterile field ready to hand the tools for her first laparotomy ! 

I had such a great experience that I decided to head to the theater again the following day. Not only did I get to observe surgeries on the second day but I was pushed outside of my comfort zone with the opportunity to scrub in on a Laparotomy! The feeling of standing beside the surgeons in the sterile field scrubbed up was something I would not get to experience back home in Canada. With time I was noticing myself learning the tools better with practice and feeling like part of the theater team!  

Amanda scrubbed in on a Laparotomy. 

Both Amanda and I were amazed by how quickly we were integrated into the interprofessional team! I think it speaks to the amazing relationships that have been built here through work that has been done here by UBCO staff/students as well as OKAZHI. Everywhere we go we are told "you are welcome here" and it is evident to us that an incredible amount of trust has been established between both groups. It's sustainable relationships like this that make international practicums not only possible but so so important. We are both looking forward to what the next 5 weeks has in store for us. 

~Jessica H and Amanda 


  1. Jessica & Amanda,

    You have touched on something so important about your experience in Mongu - that you, and all of us form UBC Okanagan, are welcome there, and that you are part of an ongoing relationship of mutual respect and trust made possible by all the Zambian and Kelowna colleagues who have worked together over so many years now. As we keep learning from each other, and continuously earning the privilege to be there together, you are now another important part of that relationship.

    Maybe you will never be back in Zambia again after this experience - or maybe, like Fay and Jess and Jackie, you will find yourself unable to stay away and back there again in the future. Either way, you and your fellow students are laying more foundations to our work together - and that counts for a lot. Welcome indeed to the unforgettable experience of nursing in Zambia,

    Tricia Marck

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