Healthcare Abroad in Kenya – Kathleen Robinson, Honors Biology Major
For her off-campus study, Kathleen accompanied students and faculty from the Nursing Department on their annual trip to Kenya. As she plans to become a physician assistant, the experience she gained on this trip was invaluable. She observed and assisted medical personnel with a variety of health situations, some of which are not often seen in the U.S.—if at all. She also learned to appreciate a different culture and how to adapt to different situations. Overall, her time in Kenya was a profound experience.
The first stop on the trip was a government-run hospital in the city of Kisumu. She and the other students from UM-Flint had orientation with Kenyan nursing students their first day at the hospital. Although she had known beforehand that the hospital did not have the technology and resources that hospitals in the U.S. had, she had not anticipated how much it would affect its practice and cleanliness. For example, they did not always have the supplies available to wipe down examination tables or clean their hands with antibacterial wash. It was very difficult for her to see that people were dying because they did not have the supplies necessary to help them. Her first rotation took place in the Emergency Department where a single nurse examined patients with the help of a few nursing students. People were lined up on benches waiting to be seen and even patients brought in by ambulance had to wait at least fifteen minutes to be examined. During one such drop-off, a girl passed away before she could be seen. Kathleen has encountered death in emergency situations before and thought that she would be prepared, but this case was different. She was sad that no one was able to examine her before she passed and that no one was with her. However, she did not blame anyone because she knew that the small staff was doing the best they could with the resources they had. She admired the nurse for her courage and perseverance. “It was amazing to see how these nurses practice and continue to want to work in those environments because, if she wasn’t there, who would help the patients?”
Kathleen also had the opportunity to spend time in a dispensary in a village outside Kisumu. She was able to help out in the pharmacy by counting medication and also in the immunization room where she was shown a variety of things such as how to measure, weigh, and record immunizations; how to administer immunizations; and how to check for malaria. The experience was very valuable and she felt like she was lessening the workload for the staff.
The second half of the trip was spent in Nairobi where she did rotations at St. Mary’s Mission Hospital and helped the nurses from St. Mary’s provide medical care at the Good Samaritan Orphanage in the slums. “The orphans and surrounding families lived in such meager conditions. However, these conditions that we may think would be horrendous and unlivable for us did not affect the happiness or love they shared. They were so joyous and welcoming towards our group. Just experiencing the love from these children showed me the innocence of these kids and how they are just like any other kid. They had such hope and happiness for the future. It was very inspiring.”
The experiences of this trip have significantly impacted her life. First, it has helped her become more culturally sensitive. Second, it has taught her how to adapt to certain situations, which include a lack of medical supplies and communication barriers. She learned that, by opening yourself up and learning all that you can, you can forge connections with others. “I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone but, with that, I grew and now I have more confidence in stepping out and taking risks. I am so blessed to be able to experience this trip and I am excited to see how this will impact my future plans and job.”