Take-home message from the trip

From Dr. Kristi Meyer:

With our time in Zambia drawing to a close, Dr. Carey has been asking the students to start thinking about their take-home message from the trip. What one interaction or experience or thought will stick with them the most as they leave Zambia and head back to their final year of nursing school at Wisconsin Lutheran College? And what will they do with that take-home message?

I’ve been thinking about my take-home message as well. As the only non-health care member of the trip, my experience has been a little different than everyone else’s. I haven’t spent time in the clinics of Lusaka. I haven’t interacted with the patients who came for care for HIV testing. I haven’t had conversations with the Zambian health care workers and seen how the conditions here are different from back in the United States.

2014-05-Zambia-Student-activitiesInstead, my trip has been focused on education. I took students out to two different Lutheran schools in Lusaka and supervised presentations on oral hygiene, fire safety, and water sanitation. I watched the students present to the Seminary wives, the women who will serve alongside their husbands in the field in the near future. And perhaps most poignantly, I sat in on the students’ presentations on HIV and associated issues at the rural clinic at Mwembezhi. I have been so impressed by our nursing students over the course of our two weeks here. They have done a wonderful job with all of these health education presentations, despite working through cultural and language issues.

As a consequence of my role on this trip, my take-home message is education. In our daily debriefings, there are certainly positive stories to be shared. But the overarching theme comes back to the need for better health care in Zambia. That’s where education comes in. I firmly believe that education is the key to improving the health care system in Zambia. More education is needed for the clinical officers, the nurses and community health workers, the midwives and traditional birth attendants, and most of all the patients. With education comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes change.

And that’s where I hope our students realize the impact they have had through this trip. From their stories, I can tell they’ve learned a lot and have had some wonderful conversations in their clinical settings. But because they are still students, their primary role in these settings has been to observe. In contrast, they have been actively doing and teaching in their health education presentations. They have been imparting valuable information to the students and community members. They have been making a difference by sharing their knowledge.

Because we are “mzungus,” we stand out here. We are an anomaly. We are something different for the population to experience, something out of the norm in their everyday life. Maybe they will go home and tell their family members and friends about us. Maybe they will also share some of the health education lessons they learned from us.

What will I do with my take-home message? I’ll continue to encourage our students to be educators as well as nurses. I’ll do my best to share my experiences from this trip and talk about what I heard and saw here. Most importantly, however, I’ll pray for the people here that we presented to. I’ll pray that our messages were heard and understood. I’ll pray for the physical and spiritual health of all the people we interacted with over the course of our two weeks here. And if even one Zambian has a better health care experience because of something we said and did, then our trip will have been worth it. Through God’s grace, we will have made a difference.

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