In their four years as university students, Brock’s future nurses had never been in such high demand.
Patients walked long miles over stony ground to the nursing clinics where they worked. People traveled two hours to hear them speak.
But that’s the kind of responsibility and enrichment a dozen students experienced on the first-ever international Brock Nursing trip to Swaziland.
In a new community health course, which will be offered each spring, students will learn in the African country where health care is in great demand. The first group returned on June 18 after three weeks of working and learning in rural nursing health clinics and participating in 72 home visits, where they learned the value of their expertise. The students also gave presentations to audiences who traveled long distances.
“It was an opportunity for them to see nursing practiced with limited resources in a way that requires a lot of resilience and adaptation,” said Melanie Stansfield, professor in Brock’s Department of Nursing. “They learned that their services can cross any border.”
The program is offered in connection with the Nazarene College of Nursing in Swaziland. The ailments in the communities they visited were severe. In various regions of Swaziland, 40 to 60 per cent of the population has HIV/AIDS, and many have tuberculosis.
“The students really gained insight into how privileged they are and how privileged our medical system is,” Professor Karyn Taplay said.
The group assessed many grandmothers who are caring for multiple grandchildren because the middle generation has suffered high mortality from AIDS. One student was overcome with emotion when a father asked her to take his daughter to Canada where she would have a better life.
The students also raised more than $2,000 to provide supplies to the areas they visited.
Forty-two students were interested. Taplay and Stansfield narrowed down the group with an application process. There are already requests for next year, Taplay said.
The majority of the students were from Niagara communities such as St. Catharines, Fonthill and Smithville.