Blog 1 – Getting to Ghana and Days 1 and 2

August 13th, 2008 by njandreau

The travel to Ghana was eventful.  We didn’t arrive in Sekondi until 5 p.m. on Monday following several barriers with air travel that included a cancellation in Boston and a long delay in NYC.   In the end, our arrival was 2 1/2 days later than originally planned.  The students, although disappointed were understanding and gracious.  We met up with the Utah contingency in Accra Monday morning and after a 5-hour bus ride to Sekondi, we are finally here!

Day one in the clinic went well.  Because the students were so exhausted following the long, arduous travel, we opted to set up the clinic early Tuesday morning complete with triage, 4 provider stations, a full service pharmacy, a waiting area for the patients, as well as a play area for the children.  We saw 51 patients with varying health problems.  We were also able to make some referrals to Dr. Regi Robnett and the Occupational Therapy students.

As the clinic began, a participant and UNE alum, Jen Lockman, went with a community worker to exchange money needed for the clinic and purchase needed medication at the chemist.  Although many medications are limited in Ghana, certain anti-malarials and de-worming medications are much cheaper.

Following the clinic, most of the students were accompanied by community health workers into Sekondi’s sister city, Takoradi to visit the market and shop for fabric.  It was very apparent that the people here have rarely seen so many lighter-skinned people.  There is a local seamstress that is known to sew beautiful garments for the students from African batiks and tie dye textiles.

The International Mission, where Ghana Health Mission’s clinic runs and the students live for this immersion is also hosting a spiritual revival which adds to the rich cultural experience.
Day two in the clinic went well.  We saw 74 patients of all ages presenting with a variety of health conditions.  Several referrals were made for national health insurance, a new government program whereby participants pay a premium for health care services.  In years past Ghana Health Mission paid for actual referrals and surgeries.  Now we pay to enroll people in the insurance program.

The OT students did triage to help out the nursing staff. In addition we gave out all our reading glasses (at least 30 pair over two days), worked on balance and mobility issues, vision screening, and various exercises for various problems. Unfortunately it seems like people with disabilities might be unable to get out into the community, so we really did not see many disabled people in clinic. We certainly noted how difficult it was to negotiate the terrain in town (trenches, 18 inch drop offs, rocks, poor lighting at night, etc). We still have our full array of crutches, walkers, and one wheelchair, but we have been assured that these can be used at the hospital by the PT, Hannah Napier, a native of Sekondi and a member of the church, who is going to have an OT contingent by her side for the next 4 clinic days.

Preparing for the Trip

August 1st, 2008 by njandreau

Prior to departure on August 8th, and considered part of the experience for students, were two meetings (6 hours) on campus with faculty. These meetings focused on an overview of Ghanaian culture, team building, cultural awareness, and fundraising ideas. The students have focused their fundraising efforts on various medical and other supplies.

In addition to the hydration packets the students devise, there has been particular focus on obtaining footwear for the community as bare feet represent a port of entry for disease carrying organisms. Many in the community are without shoes. The students have collected numerous pairs of lightweight footwear for the community and will be shipping them soon.

The faculty and students of UNE look forward to sharing this important journey with you. Stay tuned…

2008 Trip

August 1st, 2008 by njandreau

University of New England faculty and 16 students from the College of Health Professions are participating in a two-week transcultural immersion experience to Ghana, West Africa from August 8-22.

Jennifer Morton, MS, MPH, RN, nursing, and Regi Robnett, PhD, OTR/L, occupational therapy, and 16 interdisciplinary students from the College of Health Professions including: nursing, social work, occupational therapy, health services management, and physician assistant will be joining Hilarie Jones, MS, APRN from Ghana Health Mission. They will work with clients of all ages in a primary care clinic initially established by the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the people of Sekondi, Ghana.

This experience will introduce the students to health care as it is delivered in a developing country while they provide valuable healthcare services and community health education to the people of Sekondi, Ghana. The course tied to this experience, “Transcultural Immersion in Health Care,” will assist students in recognizing and heightening their skills as culturally sensitive health professionals through self reflection prior to, during and after the immersion experience.

Students will participate in activities that include:

  • Participation in the delivery of direct patient care
  • Community health education as a partnership with community health workers
  • Becoming versed in the use of interpreters

One example of the community outreach the students will be doing is educating people about the need for safe drinking water and staying hydrated. In meetings prior to the trip, students discussed ways to do this and developed an oral hydration packet, which consists of ½ tsp. salt, 8 tsp. sugar and one liter of water, which they will be handing out to people waiting in line at the clinic with interpreted instructions. “Although the students will participate in healthcare delivery services to approximately 1,500 patients during their visit, the community health education they deliver to the community will be passed on to many more people, and could have a even bigger impact on the community’s health,” said Morton.