Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
From May 28th to June 21st 12 fourth year student nurses, two faculty and a teaching assistant travelled to Swaziland to learn about nursing in an African Kingdom that faces enormous challenges in delivering care to those within its borders. Swaziland is a kingdom of over one million people that is located in sub Sahara Africa. The country has more than 200,000 people who live with the AIDS virus and over 70,000 orphaned children.
In preparation for the community nursing course the students not only attended lectures at Brock, they raised funds for projects, collected donations of clothing and medical supplies and studied the culture and the language of Swaziland. Only then did they fly over 13,500 kilometres to an orphanage on Bethany Mountain to begin their community nursing course.
Upon arrival both students and faculty trekked the mountainside visiting homesteads, doing health assessments, and offering assistance in planting gardens. They distributed the supplies they had collected here in Canada including knitted blankets, shawls, and dolls created by Brock’s own group of Community Knitters.
The student nurses taught classes on health and first aid attended by local residents, some of whom had travelled great distances to attend, they also attended nursing lectures at the South African Nazarene University, and toured local hospitals. They also worked at remote clinics learning about the impact that HIV has had on this nation and delivering care alongside local nurses.
“The purpose of the course” says Melanie Stansfield, a lecturer in Brock University’s Department of Nursing, “was to teach the students that nursing is a universal profession that functions in all countries regardless of their resources. They learned to improvise, to critically assess and to respect a culture much different than their own.”
The students who participated in this community nursing course spent a great deal of their time conducting in-depth community assessments in specific regions of Swaziland. They gathered data from a variety of sources and worked collaboratively with community members to learn about the socio-political, religious, and cultural practices with in these regions. As well they examined the financial and infrastructure aspects that impact the health of the people in these regions. They were tasked to collaborate with community members and come up with unique community health nursing goals that would address some of the challenges of these particular regions and suggest readily available regional resources that could assist in the achievement of these goals. This learning requirement of the course provided a unique opportunity for the students to explore community health nursing within a completely different culture and country. I believe that this experience will allow students to see their own communities differently and provide the tools to critically analyze communities in Canada and abroad in their future travels.
This international community health nursing course in Swaziland provided the students with exceptional experiences of caring for individuals and communities. It provided them with the opportunity to see the impact one community can have on another. The Brock knitters made blankets and stuffed toys to hand out on Bethany mountain and the student were able to see the huge impact the community of Brock Knitters had on the community of Bethany mountain.
“I like to think of it as community to community” says Karyn Taplay a lecturer in Brock University’s Nursing Department. “It is a humbling experience to see two sisters in their mid 60’s break into a song and dance after each receiving a knitted blanket. Equally as humbling, was to assess a young boy of 6 that had an enlarged heart and give him a knitted lion to help him keep strong. This was possibly the first and definitely the last toy he received as he died 5 days after our visit.”