Nursing Students Make a Difference in Kenya
The weekend after Thanksgiving, while most people were still feeling the effects of the turkey’s tryptophan, a group of nursing students boarded a plane for Kenya where they would spend the final three weeks of the semester – and their college careers – working at remote clinics and educating the Kenyan people about healthcare.
Maria Perez, Jenelle Inclema, Meera Kedley, Kim Davis, Jamie Giovannini, Annmarie Grace, and Danielle Cole traveled alongside Dr. Nancy Wilk, Assistant Professor, for the fifth trip to Kenya for Wegmans School of Nursing students.
The group held screening clinics at the Mbaka Oromo School, as well as two Masai villages. They also conducted home visits and worked in various departments at the Maseno Mission Hospital.
Wilk, who has taken this trip three times, said the students had the opportunity to work in the maternity, medical, and surgical departments in the hospital, and also rotated through outpatient departments, including maternal child health and the HIV clinic.
During one particular day, the students accompanied a community health worker into the more rural communities for home visits. Most of the visits were to check in on HIV positive patients to be sure they were taking their medications, and also to educate them on those medications, their diet, and how to care for themselves at home.
In total, the group saw approximately 250 people in the clinics, home visits, and hospital. They held educational sessions for another 150 people focused on Project Pad.
“I love to see the students’ transformation in understanding the cultural differences that we face, and to see their appreciation for what we have here and be thankful for it,” said Wilk. “It makes me proud to see them behave professionally and to act as nurses! They really shine when we are doing patient care.”
Wilk added that the students definitely appreciate the cultural differences, including what they themselves have at home, and that the trip makes them aware of the huge disparities in healthcare, income, clean water, access to food, and more that exists in the world.
“They also can appreciate the fact that people are people wherever you go and that there are commonalities despite our cultural differences. And they learn how to provide care without all of the fancy medical equipment we enjoy here. They have to use their senses to assess patients there,” she said.
Meera Kedley knew the trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and wanted to do something different for her senior preceptorship. She let excitement ? not nerves ? prepare her for the long trek, and said once she arrived, it was much different than she expected.
Of all the clinics they conducted, Kedley said her two favorite clinics were with two different Masai tribes. The students were all assigned to different stations. All of the children in the tribes were given a chewable de-worming pill, and a lollipop for a treat afterwards. Kedley was at the station where the children’s scalps were checked for any fungal infection, and gave any children diagnosed with an infection oral medication for treatment.
Before leaving Rochester, Wegmans School of Nursing staff and students made cycle beads, which the group used in Kenya to educate women about their menstrual cycle and how they could keep track of it. Both Wilk and Kedley said many of the men were also interested in the beads and how they worked.
The group also distributed kits from “Project Pad,” which include undergarments and reusable sanitary supplies for young women who were suffering through their menstrual cycles with no access to those supplies. The students and faculty collected donations from several community sources and created the kits. During this past trip, they distributed 140 kits to the girls in the school, and another 80 to young women in the community.
“I am so glad I went on the trip. I was able to make a difference in people’s lives, whether it was holding their hand while they were getting a spinal, helping push a patient on a gurney from x-ray back to their bed, or when I gave lollipops out to pediatric patients,” said Kedley. “A simple wave or high-five would make children grin from ear to ear.”
She noted the differences in Kenya, from the way they practice medicine to ethical decisions in healthcare.
“It is hard work to go to Kenya and adjust. But I enjoyed learning and being part of an amazing and beautiful culture,” she said.
Kedley remembers her favorite day fondly, which was the afternoon before they left when the group had some down time to play with the children. They taught the students a few games, and the students returned the favor with games like Duck Duck Goose, London Bridges, Ring Around the Rosy, and the Wheels on the Matatu (Swahili for “bus”).
“We all laughed and had so much fun that day. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it,” she said.
The School of Nursing is planning the next trip this May for graduate students, pharmacy students, and interested faculty and other professionals.
From L to R: Annmarie Grace, Kim Davis, Maria Perez, Nancy Wilk, Jenelle Inclema, Meera Kedley, Jess Thomsen (RN), Erin Kane (RN), and Danielle Cole.
Kim Davis, Jamie Giovannini, Erin Kane, Annmarie Grace, and Nancy Wilk prepare "Project Pad" kits for distribution.