Aisha travelled to Ghana to learn about health promotion and share best practice
Prior to starting this journey, I had received an email to apply for the Cavell Nurses' Trust Scholarship awards. I got curious about the Trust, researched it and read of the wonderfully exceptional nurse, Edith Cavell, that put humanity first over any other differences we may all have. Now, that was something that I greatly admired and respected. This is not to say that there have not been other exceptional nurses. But, for me, to have someone rise in the face of adversity and have the courage to stand for what they believe in and touch people’s lives positively was exceptional.
For such a long time, I had hoped to do even a fraction of what she had done, what the women in my life had done for their community too. The scholarship was like a beacon for me to take a chance and make a difference in the wider community. I had already started this in University by getting involved in various numerous activities such as campaigning and fundraising for world AIDS Day, volunteering for the local hospice, fighting for students rights. But, the need to do more and get involved in something that touches people on a global level was greater. What I could learn and share from areas where health inequalities and cultural issues were prominent could be beneficial to my community upon my return.
India and Ghana were my initial choices and after following up both, Ghana presented itself first. This meant that I could get involved in the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal number four (reducing childhood mortality) and goal six (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases). With HIV and TB being on the rise once again in the UK, this was of particular interest to me. Especially the stigma attached to both and the influence that nurses can have on service users in health education and importance of medication administration in the face of drug resistance.
I got to visit the HIV clinic in the regional hospital, work in the emergency department, assist with vaccines and handing out of mosquito nets in a community child outreach programme and spent time with children at an orphanage. Learnt more than I thought I would about tropical diseases in teaching sessions given whilst in Ghana, worked with patients and their families as well as other professionals in treating both malaria and typhoid including the recent outbreak of cholera as I arrived. Learnt of the contingency plans that they had for Ebola in case of an outbreak from nearby countries and the relevant health promotion strategies they were implementing. I managed to share my experiences and have my own input in the form of sharing about numerous things such as, infection control, wound dressings, communication, and the importance of the Glasgow coma scale. I was a scrub nurse in the emergency minor operations clinic and worked in main theatres too.
The people all round were lovely and willing to share experiences, but that is not to say there were no challenges. Indeed there were situations that were ethically, morally and clinically challenging especially in the context of what we learn in the UK about the 6Cs and NHS Values. There were times I had to be an advocate for the patients when things went beyond cultural differences and lack of resources to neglecting simple basic care. As a team, we had to be innovative when resources were limited in emergency situations. This is something that made me even more aware of how much we rely on technology in the UK and how to improvise in case of problems accessing services.
The experience was exceptionally outstanding and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Without the scholarship it may never have come to fruition. Not to mention the outstanding support I got from my university (planning and finances) and my local hospital that sent me with quite a few medical donations that were well received. The faculty Dean (Prof. Ruth Taylor) has been very supportive and following her advice, I have started a blog within the university to share my experiences. This will highlight the opportunities that the Cavell Nurses Trust gave me and will hopefully encourage other students to follow their dreams. Thank you!