Ilula Tanzania: Nursing student reflects on her January Internship with an interprofessional medical team from the University of MN Posted on April 6th, 2016 by

By Lauren Gornall

Traveling and experiencing cultures different from our own has an effect on us that
cannot be replicated, as each experience is unique in the people that is being shared
with. I experienced this over a period of six weeks in January and February where I
was able to immerse myself at Ilula Hospital in a small, rural village in the mountains of Tanzania with an organization called Bega Kwa Bega (Shoulder to Shoulder) and
various interprofessional healthcare workers, faculty, and students from all over
Minnesota. This organization has been partnered with Ilula Hospital for well over ten
years now and it was incredible to witness the relationship that has been so carefully
formed over the past decade.

As it is a partnership, we focused on learning as much from the workers there in Ilula, as well as teaching them new techniques that could impact their delivery of care in a sustainable way. I worked with medical students,medical residents, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, a healthcare administrative team, and infection prevention workers from both Minnesota and Ilula Hospital.

As the first and only nursing student on this trip, I was a part of an incredible learning opportunity for everyone involved. Though some had more experience in Tanzania and working in the healthcare profession than others, we were all on the same trip to learn about ourselves and the differences in our cultures through our healthcare systems. We had the ability to expand our knowledge about interdisciplinary health care, while using our intercultural experiences to broaden our view of the world.

Our day to day life at Ilula Hospital consisted of going on labor and delivery and general rounds with a member from each discipline, seeing patients in their outpatient department, assisting with surgery and births, and assisting with various clinics, such as the CTC (HIV) clinic, mobile vaccination clinics for children, hospice visits, and a clinic that provides birth control and pregnancy care to women.

We also had the opportunity to present a topic of our choice at the two day Ilula Minnesota International Conference in Iringa. Over 25 hospital teams (consisting of the head matron, head physician, pharmacist, and healthcare administrator) from all over Tanzania came to listen and learn new techniques that could be implemented into their clinical settings. We each presented a different topic, such as hand hygiene, the chikungunya virus, and IV insertion and maintenance (which another nurse and I presented). It was an incredible experience to hear their questions and eagerness to implement even a simple protocols.

We also got to hear a presentation by a Tanzanian woman who is head of an HIV clinic in Dar es Salaam. This conference taught me a lot about what is mostneeded in a resource poor community and how to work to resolve such issues.

It has taken me a long time to be able to put this experience into words and even after long contemplation, there are still some aspects of the trip that are nearly impossible to convey the meaning they had for me. This experience really made me appreciate how blessed we are to have the system of healthcare that we do, even though it consists of many controversial aspects. Building lasting relationships with our healthcare team and also with the staff of Ilula Hospital over those six weeks was one of my favorite parts. It shows what a difference a continuing presence in a community can do for both parties.
With every adventure there is always it’s ups and downs and we had many of both on
this trip, especially emotionally. I, for one, am new to the healthcare world and was
thoroughly unprepared for the sheer gravity of the helplessness I felt in many situations. Though we were surrounded by so much suffering and destitution while working in the hospital and traveling through the bush, the Tanzanian peoples never ceased to amaze me with their overwhelming hospitality and generosity. Though some of the practices in the hospital gave us pause, learning from the Tanzanians in regard to their attitudes is paramount and I hope to carry this completely selfless lifestyle into my practice here at home.


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