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Jennifer MacMillan’s Blog

International Nursing in Tanzania – MacGyver* It!

When my colleagues, instructors and I arrived at Mikumi, Tanzania earlier this week, we thought the world was our oyster, but then we realized it was actually going to be kuku, not oysters. Kuku is Swahili for chicken and that has been a main staple in our diets. I am not complaining, the cooks on campus at Veta College in Mikumi do a great job. According to St.Kizto hospital, Mikumi has a population of 12,015 very friendly people. They are warm and welcoming. I was pleasantly surprised with the Veta collage guest accommodations, it is very clean, and I feel safer here than I do in some parts of NS. The faculty and students have made us feel quite at home. 

We are working at St.Kizito hospital for two weeks, we are leaning lots about primary prevention healthcare and that is really nice to see as 1,935 babies are born in that hospital a year. The vaccinations and teaching they provide at the reproductive/ child health clinic is very impressive. St Kizto has a new maternity ward called St.Anna with about 35 beds and 5 labour chambers. Supplies may be limited at times, but they would MacGyver* something up to complete the task at hand. The hospital  may  not have everything at their disposal as we do in North America, (pun intended as we dispose of far too much in NA) they make due with what they have to provide the best quality care they can.  

We are currently learning Swahili and I am thoroughly enjoying that. The local people get a good chuckle when we try to speak their language, but they are happy we are learning none the less.

I am learning many skills at St.Kizto, although language is a huge barrier some of the time. Some nurses and very few patients speak english, so we have had to adapt and find ways to communicate. Although miscommunication can be an issue there is one thing that we all understand. That is our compassion and caring for the patients, and our eagerness to do our best to help their condition. Everyone understands a warm smile or gentle touch, especially the people of Mikumi!  They are always shaking hands,  holding hands or hugging upon greeting one another. It is so nice to see that kind of warm interaction here, as it is not as common back home. 

The hospital is quite structured with collaboration from interdisciplinary teams. The roles of some of the nurses are different, some have specialized training to do dental work, anesthesia, and midwifery. Only half the women in Mikumi and surrounding areas visit the hospital to deliver their baby, the other half have them on their own with no help. Mother and child mortality rates are very high. Pregnancy is quite a high risk in Mikumi. Typhoid, malaria and chronic/acute anemia are very common cases at St.Kiztu. The differences in the Canadian health care system and the system in Tanzania is vast. This experience puts things in to perspectives as to how much we take for granted back home, and also how much stuff we waste, we can learn a lot from the people of Mikumi. Like washing and reusing some medical equipment, and using herbal remedies more often. We learned about a very cool leaf called Lozala, if you have low hemoglobin you boil the leaf in water to make tea and drink it daily to bring up hemoglobin levels. 

My experience thus far has taught me about some cultural differences of the people in Mikumi, the women modestly dressing with Kangas,  people carrying baskets on their heads, the importance of education, and a laid back lifestyle to name only a very few.

I will be more employable after this experience because I have learned to adapt to my surroundings, fit in with all the people (its not hard because they are awesome here!) and improved my critical thinking skills to MacGyvery* a situation if necessary. I am looking forward to going on Safari this weekend and hopefully spotting a giant tiger. To Be continued…..

*MacGyver= Rigging up something to work with in a present situation when specialized materials are not available. An example of this is using a plastic glove as a tourniquet.

Jennifer MacMillan 

Practical Nursing Student 

NSCC Waterfront Campus

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