James Madison University

Nurse Practitioner Graduate Students Travel to Kenya

By: Lori News
Posted: February 26, 2014

PHOTO: Student examining patient

Many people travel to Kenya for the picturesque landscapes and incredible wildlife. In summer of 2013, JMU graduate and undergraduate nursing students enjoyed the beauty of Kenya, while also providing medical services to the local people in Nairobi, Narok and Nyeri.

“I have been [to Kenya] in 2008 and 2011 with my church group and that’s really where I first developed my interest and appreciation for the country. I thought that this would be a great place for nursing students…now we’re planning for this years trip,” said Kathy Floyd, nursing professor and one of the directors of the trip.

The seven undergraduate R.N. students and three graduate students participating in this trip worked inside the government run hospitals and clinics. Since Kenya does not have many of the technologies that we have, the students were able to learn alternative techniques.

In Kenya “there is a mixture of traditional medicine and western medicine,” Sharon Strang, nursing professor and the second trip director said. “For example, for dental health they might take bark off a tree and chew on it. Interestingly, there is evidence that this practice does have some health benefits.”

One of the most populous nations in East Africa, Kenya struggles to provide adequate access to basic health care to its citizens.

Health care in Kenya is provided by Clinic Officers who attend school for only two years before they can prescribe medicine. Also, antibiotics are used very frequently and inappropriately to treat illnesses, according to Strang.

“Their health care has a way to go but they are very enthusiastic about their country and they are really trying. They have a thirst for knowledge that sometimes you don’t see [in the U.S.],” Strang explained.

PHOTO: Student with giraffe

One highlight of the trip was a free instructor/student/clinic staff run all-day clinic in Narok. Medicine, sick visits and physicals were provided free of charge to over 200 patients. In Nagoswani the students also gave 163 school physicals, had 48 appoints with pregnant women, treated 70 clinic patients and gave immunizations to 22 people.

“One thing that was rewarding about taking students from different educational levels was the graduate students were able to lead the patient care team. It was very encouraging to see the leadership qualities developing during patient care in a foreign environment,” Strang said.

The graduate students had the opportunity to assist in the delivery of three different children in a “bush medicine” clinic in Narok. Graduate student, Anne Marie Craig said it was “the most exciting thing [she] did.” According to Strang and Floyd, the focus of the trip was to provide “hands-on experiences with medical/nursing practice. They wanted the students to work in the health care system and experience real life situations instead of just observing.

“I not only had the opportunity to learn new skills myself but I was able to mentor many of the undergraduates,” Craig said.

PHOTO" Student with baby

Home nursing care is an important component of the healthcare delivery system within Kenya. The graduate nurse practitioners and R.N. undergraduate students assessed the patients together, while the nurse practitioner students developed an individualized, culturally appropriate treatment plan.?

The students and trip advisors report that they were wholeheartedly welcomed into the people’s homes, often leaving with bananas the family had picked from their own trees.

“I think the home visits were some of [the students] favorite things and that gave them the opportunity to see the people in their own environment,” Floyd said.

In addition to clinic work and home visits, the students took some classes at Kenyatta University.

“We let the students intermingle with other Kenyan nursing students and I think that was a very positive experience because they exchanged information about nursing education in Kenya versus nursing education in the U.S. and toured with them in hospitals,” Floyd said.

“To have the opportunity to safely travel and to have a structured agenda made my first trip working in a third world country nothing but a positive experience,” Craig said. “We all got along very well and developed deep friendships.”

Strang explained, “I think for all the students, graduate or undergraduate it was a life changing experience.” She reports hearing that sentiment repeatedly from the students.

Because, the plan is to take graduate students every other year, Kathy Floyd and Cindy Rubenstein, the director of the undergraduate nursing program, are currently planning a 2014 undergraduate trip to Kenya. The focus will be pediatric health care.