Friday, March 9, 2018

We're packed and ready to go....

We're off on another Global Health Practicum in Ghana, West Africa.  My colleague Maggie Bannerman along with 14 BSN students head out on Sunday.  We've been preparing since the fall, and I've spent the past week in seminars with these amazing nurses, refreshing what we know about global health and citizenship, power and privilege, colonization, tropical diseases and low resource settings.  Our heads and hearts are full!!

I know the next 5 weeks will be filled with joy and sorrow, hope and despair, and I also know these 14 women will come home forever changed.  

We invite you to share our journey.  It always feels good to know we have support at home. 

And so it begins...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Beginning of an End

by katie nugent photography
As we sit here in a cabana on the beach watching the waves at Coconut Grove Resort, it's hard to believe that five weeks have gone by so fast. Throughout this trip we have not had much down time to reflect on what we have accomplished in Ghana until now. Quite frankly, and literally, it has been a bumpy ride. We have faced many physical, emotional, and professional challenges. In spite of this, we have grown as nurses, individuals, and global health citizens.
Our global awareness has developed drastically since the beginning of this practicum. We have witnessed some of the most resilient and resourceful nurses, as well as, some of the most passionate and committed community members. We have learned from them in ways that words cannot describe. We are so thankful to the Ghanaians for welcoming and supporting us through our experience. We will take home many lessons that we will share and incorporate into our practice as Registered Nurses and global citizens. A special thank you to Dr. Vida Yakong for all the work that she has done and for continuing the partnership with UBC Okanagan.

by katie nugent photography
As a group of 20, we have shared many laughs and tears. We have learnt how to pee on the side of the road as a group, and survive off of Cliff bars and instant oatmeal. We can calculate exactly how many millilitres of water we will need to drink in a day and accept that sweat and dirt will be everywhere, always. We are now pros at 10 hour bus rides with no air conditioning, and some of us even perfected the art of puking into a glove.

Jeanette & Maggie
by katie nugent photography
Thank you to our amazing bus drivers Jacob and Peter for getting us to our destination safely even with a chicken in the back seat. A huge shout out to Clifford, Francis and Samed for watching over us and being our Ghanaian phone experts. Thank you to our instructors Maggie and Jeanette for supporting, guiding and loving us at our worst and best moments. Ghana has captured our hearts. We came as 18 UBCO nursing students, and we now are leaving as new grads with a shared experience that will bond us no matter where we end up.
***Posted by: Alishia Huston, Kelsey Bellerive and Emma Miller

Gala Girls in Ghana: Project GROW Day!

Women of Project GROW
Katie Nugent Photography
Our final day of practice in our nursing program was the celebration at Nyobok for Project GROW: Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women. This is a community development project aiming to empower women and build community capacity. Over the last 5 weeks we have had the pleasure of working with the inspiring Dr Vida Yakong, the founder of this initiative. Throughout the year, this organization helps provide sustainable opportunities for women of northern Ghana.  This celebration is the day that Project GROW gives away goats and donkeys with carts, as well as other items that have been identified as a priority by the women.  All the women who are involved in the communities are registered in the Project GROW program, and the women determine who has the greatest need each year.
Gala Girls with Goats!
Photo by Katie Nugent Photography
This year, we had 49 new goats for the women, 8 donkeys with carts, as well as 20 goats brought back from women already involved in the Project GROW initiative. The women agree to return their first female baby goat to Project GROW, and they do this without question.   As of today, this organization has over 500 women involved.  

The celebration involved many prominent community members, including the Chief of the Nabdam district, health commissioners and an assembly member. One of the reasons Project GROW has been so successful is that the Chief of the Nabdam land has been supportive of Dr. Vida’s vision from the very beginning. We were fortunate to meet him, listen to his prayer for the ongoing success of the program, watch him pour libations to bless the day and listen his speech expressing his support for women’s empowerment in the community.  The speech and prayer were translated for us as this beautiful man has never been to school and doesn’t speak English.  His understanding that when women thrive, communities thrive comes from his heart.    

Nabdam Chief
Photo courtesy of Katie Nugent Photography
The five of us in our fourth year leadership and change project organized a fundraiser in Kelowna for donations towards Global Health initiatives.  We partnered with OkaZHI and all the proceeds from the fundraiser went towards health initiatives in both Ghana and Zambia. It was an honour to participate in the celebration of the distributions of goats, donkeys, and carts that were bought at the Global Gala.  It has been wonderful though the past five weeks to see the physical manifestation of funds generously donated by community members at the Global Gala.    

We also want to thank our fellow fourth year students who solely focused on fundraising for Project GROW.  This group volunteered their time at the Global Gala in November to sell shea butter made by the women at the Vocational Centre in Nyobok: Laura McBride, Mckinnley Massey, Mckenzie Gabara and Katie Hall.  Thanks Ladies!  The money from the shea butter started the work on the nurses’ accommodations at the Okanagan Community Health Centre.  It will be completed in the next few months.  Yay!

For more information about this amazing organization please visit:

Posted by Emily Plant, Meagan Lentz, Stephanie Bandura, Mikaela Noble, Kenya Mokoena 

Konge-Logre Clinic

The Logre Team 
The Amanda's and Mikaela had the pleasure of working at the Kongo-Logre Clinic last week. This clinic runs several programs such as, antenatal care, child welfare screening, and an ART (antiretroviral therapy) clinic throughout the week. During our time there we were able to participate in the antenatal clinic which included maternal assessments and monitoring of the babies growth. We encountered a complicated situation where a mother was struggling with breastfeeding and engorgement. We were quick to notice that this situation was being handled much differently than what we are familiar with in Canada. They were using an alternative method to express breast milk which was causing the mother a great deal of discomfort. A few minutes in to the procedure, the midwife asked us what we would do at home. Upon discussion, we realized that the protocol we would follow at home was not able to translate directly to this culture and context, and therefore were able to collaborate with the staff to find the best solution for the mother with the resources that were available. We really enjoyed all that we learned during our time at the antenatal clinic.
The child welfare clinic was also an experience we were grateful to be a part of. We assessed growth and development, immunization status, nutrition, and general health screening. We were quick to dive right into the hands-on work and were thankful that the nurses and midwives were so eager to teach and encourage us.

Our last day was spent at the ART clinic, which was started and is predominately run by the midwife we had the pleasure to get to know so well over the week, "Mama B." Her passion for the clinic was very apparent in the care and follow up with every HIV positive individual. Assessment, counselling, and medical treatment is provided on a weekly basis. When barriers to accessing necessary treatment were apparent, mama B would go above and beyond to deliver medication and counselling to each individual who needed it.

Overall we found this experience very humbling and inspiring and we will use all that we have learned in our future practice. 

Posted by Amanda McCrate, Amanda March & Mikaela Noble

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Okanagan Community Clinic - Nyobok

Last week we had the opportunity to work at the Okanagan Community Clinic in Nyobok. Over the years this clinic has been supported by various individuals from the Okanagan region. During our week at the clinic, we participated in health screening, HIV and Syphilis testing, well-baby checkups, and home visits. Over the course of our time at the clinic we screened approximately 205 adults and children in addition to the unregistered babies at the well-baby clinic. This would not have been possible without the teamwork between our peers and the staff of the clinic. The individuals we encountered had walked sometimes upwards of 12km to be screened by us in the clinic and for some, this was the only time they would come to the clinic all year. 

The biggest barrier we experienced was language. Clients at the clinic may have traveled from very far away, and therefore we encountered many different languages and dialects. In many interactions the workers at the clinic were also unfamiliar with the languages clients spoke, and used other patients or surrounding people as translators. Sometimes a phrase would go through several people in order to have it translated to the individual correctly. This posed a challenge of receiving accurate and timely information. Overall, we were thankful for the staff and community members support throughout this process.
We also had the privilege of being invited into the homes of the people of Nyobok during our home visits. During these visits, we talked with the clients about hygiene, assessed the homes for cleanliness and gave them an opportunity to express any concerns they had. During this process, many of the home dwellers rushed around to provide us with chairs to sit and we were continually asked if we wanted to stay for food. The respect the individuals had towards the nurse’s opinions “wow’d” us all. At one house in particular a women welcomed us into her home. From one of the back rooms a gentleman appeared and promptly fell over, drunk. Our nurse translated to us that the man was admitting to being an alcoholic and we had the opportunity to do some teaching regarding the impact alcoholism had on the body. When translated, the man was genuinely agreeable to the instructions to stop drinking and was very appreciative of guidance and information. After leaving the home, our nurse explained to us that they encounter alcoholism often, and that while the man may quit for some time, he may start again. The common theme between the six houses was their positive, welcoming attitude and innovative use of resources.

As a community clinic, one of the barriers this location has encountered in functioning at its fullest capacity is finding staff that are willing to do the commute. In recognition of this barrier, funds from the UBCO Global Gala 2016 have been used to begin building an eight-bed residence for nurses. This building was started in February of this year. Once this building is completed, they will have the ability to offer accommodations for a midwife to open their maternity clinic. In addition, they will be able to house the current staff, and others, to lessen the burden of the commute. As four of the five Gala Girls, it was amazing to see the walls of this residence under construction because of funds that we worked so hard to raise. Seeing the physical representation of the money raised in November is the perfect completion of the Gala project.

During our time at the Nyobok Clinic we had a challenging experience when a patient came to this rural setting in an acute hypertensive crisis, meaning his blood pressure was dangerously high and he was presenting with symptoms that needed immediate medical attention. This situation was challenging for a few reasons. To begin with, as amazing as the Nyobok clinic is, there are limited resources including medications and equipment that are needed when a patient such as this requires help. This patient in particular required blood pressure medication and to be monitored regularly. This is where we were able to witness the amazing critical thinking and resourcefulness of the staff. With our suggestions of what needed to take place, the nursing staff began calling nearby clinics to try and secure medications, as well as arrange for an ambulance to take the patient to a hospital or clinic with more resources. The nearest clinic was about 20 minutes away and the nearest hospital was about one hour away. One of the nurses opted to take his own motorcycle and go pick up medications with one of the nursing students and bring them back to the clinic. The remaining staff, students and our instructors were discussing ways to transport the patient if an ambulance was not able to be secured, the last resort being a donkey and a cart. Luckily, an ambulance was eventually secured and the staff was able to provide medications and assist the patient to the hospital after he became stable. The tireless effort that these nurses went to to make sure this patient was going to be cared for was amazing to witness and we our thankful to have had this opportunity to see what needs to happen in an acute crisis in the most rural setting.

This was also challenging for us as students as we were not clear on our defined roles in an emergent situation where resources are limited. We came to this clinic as visitors looking to learn and expand our practice, however we did not anticipate this situation nor did we fully understand the proper processes and barriers that these rural clinics have to go through when presented with an acutely ill patient. We were not prepared for the amount of work that goes into transferring someone to a higher level of care in a rural setting as we are lucky enough to work in a place where there are well established protocols and procedures for these situations. We used this experience as a learning opportunity and reminder that we have the knowledge and skills to care for all patients in all settings and to trust ourselves and all that we are capable of. 

We are so grateful for our time at the Nyobok clinic and for the close ties it shares with the Kelowna community and all the learning we were able to accomplish during our short time there. 

Posted by: Stephanie Bandura, Emily Plant, Megan Lentz, Kenya Mokoena, Danielle DeYagher, Carmen Morgan and Rebecca Ellis

Nangodi Clinic

Our group has moved North to Bolga. We split into four groups to serve four community clinics surrounding the city of Bolga. Our clinic was located in the village of Nangodi and was the largest and the most acute serving this region. The clinic consisted of a mental health unit, a child and maternal health department, a consulting room, a lab, a dispensary, and a two bed ward. The villagers of this community are challenged with transportation so this clinic serves as their primary health care facility. Having such an comprehensive clinic to serve a rural population is essential in Ghana and could be a model for our rural communities back home. This facility is staffed by medical, mental health and community nurses, in addition to midwives, and a physician’s assistant. Our group worked alongside these health care providers for four days and had the opportunity to experience all aspects of the clinic.

Kids celebrating after receiving their vitamins
One of the most fulfilling and engaging components of our time in Nangodi was working alongside the community nurses. We were able to accompany them to the local schools to administer Vitamin A supplements to children under five.. The children were as excited to see us as we were to see them. You have never seen kids so excited to take their vitamins!

In our partnership with the community nurses we also did home visits for well-baby checkups. There was visible frustration in the community nurse due to lack of adherence to the vaccination schedule from some mothers. Our nurse had a discussion with the mother of a 2 ½ year old child who had not followed up with the health care team for his 18 month checkup. We asked the mother why she was finding it difficult to come down to the clinic, hoping to find a solution, but the mother was silent. We could only guess at the reason for her hesitation, leaving the community nurse to simply shake her head and move on. The clinic is working to educate families of the importance of proper health and ways to do so to increase engagement between nurses and mothers. For example, this Monday there will be a cooking workshop to teach moms how to best preserve nutrients in their meals.

We also worked with a physician’s assistant who acts as the primary health provider for not only Nangodi but also neighbouring communities. We nurtured a very collaborative relationship and taught each other a great deal. Learning the care of tropical diseases was a new experience for us all and we were able to witness the care for malaria, typhoid, a snake bite, and digestive worms to name a few. Having a patient pull a snake out of a bag that had bit him earlier was definitely a first!

Staff at the Nangodi clinic

Despite the variety of services the clinic currently provides, the staff is aware of a lack of access to health care for their youth population. In acknowledging this they are currently expanding the clinic to include an adolescent reproductive health unit. We were inspired by the determination of the staff to educate and care for the community and we are hopeful that we will see more of this model of holistic healthcare at home. 

Posted by Andrea Naka, Kelsey Bellerive, Harveer Pooni and Carolyn Grinham. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sakote Clinic!

Sakote Clinic Tree
Photo credit @katienugent
This week we were welcomed with open arms to the Sakote Clinic. Our journey began at the Sakote community health meeting that is held every three months. The Chiefs, "Queen" Mother, Sub-Chiefs, Elders and other village members greeted us with singing and dancing. Once again our dancing skills were put to test as the whole village hysterically laughed at our slick moves. At these meetings the community discusses health concerns and the Sakote clinic staff addresses them. Topics include exclusive breastfeeding, proper nutrition, anemia, malaria, and encouragement of early detection and treatment for all other health needs. 
For the next three days at the clinic, we screened several pregnant women and newborns for prenatal and postnatal care. Lets just say our ovaries were exploding and we all caught a case of baby fever! We worked alongside the midwife, Lamisi, where we focused on prenatal teaching, monitoring pregnant mothers, providing nutritional education, interpreting lab tests, and assessing the overall well being of the clients. 

Cooking Day with the women
According to the Sakote Clinic statistics, anemia is present among 57% of the pregnant women in the community. In order to address this issue, the midwives and nurses provide the women with prenatal vitamins during each visit, regardless of insurance coverage. They even held a cooking class where over 70 women were taught on how to properly prepare and cook nutritious meals using strictly local and iron enriched ingredients. We embraced the Ghanaian culture by helping prepare aleefu, bitter, dawadawa, small fish and the fowl with the women. 

Mashing up dried fish

One of the challenges that the Sakote village faces is accessibility to higher level of care that is located in Bolga (60 minute drive away). The lack of transportation and financial constraints for individuals make places like the Sakote clinic vital for the well-being of a community. The primary health care system in Ghana exceeds any thing we have in Canada.The primary health care model empowers individuals to access healthcare locally, and focuses on health services like health promotion, prenatal screening, family planning, illness and injury prevention, home visits, child welfare as well as minor emergency services, all under one roof. If there were something that we could take home and change about our Canadian health care system, it would be to strengthen our primary health care. We are in awe of how well this clinic serves their community with the little resources that they have. For example, women of the community bring water to the clinic every morning so the staff members can wash their hands. It is truly amazing to see the resilience and passion of the staff for the well-being of the community. At Sakote, the nurses live steps away in residences located on the clinic property which allows them to provide 24 hour care. They live and breathe community health care and this is shown through the love and relational practice they have with their clients. Learning from them was a privilege and we will forever cherish this time spent with them.

Posted by:  Jessica Sherbinin, Jade Geddes, Emma Miller and Alishia Huston
Sakote Staff