Monday, April 14, 2008

Learning and Training Continues at JFK

Since I’ve been in Africa, I have had a lot of teary-eyed moments, like when I held a newborn baby swaddled in a beautiful piece of African cloth…or spent the morning in the pediatric ICU and observed children having their typhoid perforation surgery wounds cleaned… or when I found myself walking behind a large crowd of people holding up a young woman who was loudly grieving the loss of her loved one. But I have to say, I never imagined Project HOPE’s trademark train-the-trainer methodology would rank among my most memorable emotional experiences in Liberia.

For more than a year I have been writing about Project HOPE’s train-the-trainer program which emphasis the sharing of health care knowledge. A concept that has helped HOPE train more than two million health care workers world-wide since 1958, I always understood the importance of the train-the-trainer philosophy in spreading health education far beyond the original health professional trained. But today, sitting in a stuffy second floor medical ward of the JFK Hospital in Monrovia, I witnessed the heart of the concept.

Jo Doerr, a volunteer nurse educator was holding an informal workshop for nurses’ aids at JFK. After brief introductions, the group decided they wanted to learn more about how to safely move patients, especially patients’ bigger than themselves. Using bed sheets, Jo demonstrated a simple method to move patients, in several different directions and even bring them to a standing position without harming their own backs or pulling on the patients’ arms. The method also required only two nurses’ aids, instead of four to move a patient. The enthusiastic students all wanted to take a practice turn.

After several lively demonstrations, Jo turned it over to the nurses' aids to teach other what they had learned. Working together as a team, the nurses' aids coached each other, offered suggestions and helped each other to insure they were practicing all the skills Jo had taught them. The enthusiastic interaction and their obvious pride in being able to teach their coworkers something new brought tears to my eyes. It was a WOW this really works moment.

A second time volunteer for Project HOPE, Jo is a positive and outgoing nurse educator who cannot walk down the street to the JFK Hospital without greeting at least 10 people and complimenting them on their beautiful dresses, their beautiful smiles or asking them how they are doing. She approaches her health education with the same enthusiasm and optimism. “The education component of this mission is about the staff at JFK and what they need,” she said. “Because we worked with them for a week first, we have focused on them making them feel valuable about what they are doing. If they feel that value and share it with others they feel good about themselves, like they are really doing something worth while.”

A nurse educator, Jo has also learned a lot from her experience working on the medical ward of the hospital. “It just amazes me, the knowledge that they have, and how they are able to do the things that they do for their patients with such limited resources,” she said. “I love the smiles of the staff when we handed out the HOPE bracelets. I also love seeing the positive changes, even if they are small. I know the bracelets will remind them of Project HOPE’s mission here, but I also think the word HOPE spelled out on them will remind them of the premier hospital that JFK can one day return to.”

Jo’s workshop was just one of four classes and workshops held today, the start of a full week of education classes.

Earlier in the morning, Project HOPE volunteer Gabrielle Seibel lead an interactive leadership and documentation class for 19 nurses from varying departments around the hospital. “I think the week we had of working in the departments, side-by-side and one-on-one really paid off for this training portion of the mission,” Gabrielle told me. “It was really hard at first to make a connection with our counterparts at the hospital. But everyday it’s gotten better and better. When it came time to plan the training we understood where they were coming from and what the background issues were. The classes we prepared were focused directly on their needs and the needs of the hospital. I think that was appreciated.”

A second-time Project HOPE volunteer, Gabrielle also said that living in the culture for a week while working at the hospital gave volunteers a holistic glimpse into the lifestyle and work environment of their counterparts. “The first week of working with them helped us form bonds and trust so that the training was more like a collegial activity, working and learning together. It’s been a fantastic experience,” she said. “We have been so involved with the group, that we are not outsiders anymore.”

Each day the volunteers work at the hospital, they are learning more and more about the skills of using what you have to get the job done-- an art that their JFK counterparts deal with on a daily basis.

Gabrielle taught her class in a loud cavernous hallway at the hospital. Sunlight and heat filled the room as noise from outside construction and people walking by posed challenges. A planned PowerPoint presentation was scrapped at the last minute because of the lack of a projector. But Gabrielle like all volunteers on this mission took a queue from their counterparts and adapted.
“Sometimes, we tend to think we need more than we do. By not being able to use the PowerPoint, I think I relied more on my listening skills and engaging with the nurses,” Gabrielle said. “I am also beginning to understand the importance of oral history in the culture and how they pass knowledge from person to person using their verbal skills.”

Mary Kennedy also conducted a trauma assessment and care course this morning. Some of the students attending her class had worked the night shift. “I was impressed with the level of participation in the class,” she said. When the power went out, as it so often does at the JFK hospital, Mary took her students to a table and with the assistance of Amy Bream and Dianne Bennett, she demonstrated the “log roll” as a way for nurses in the ER to turn trauma patients. The students immediately left their seat to try themselves.

More photos of Volunteers at work....

Help support the Project HOPE humanitarian assistance and health education mission in Africa

--Melanie Mullinax

No comments:

Post a Comment