Nursing Education and Service-Learning in Northern Uganda

Nursing Education and Service-Learning in Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda is recovering from twenty years of civil war, one of Africa’s longest conflicts. Starting in 2012, JCCC, the University of Kansas, and Research College of Nursing/Rockhurst University have jointly sponsored a nursing education and service-learning program at Lacor St. Mary’s Hospital and School of Nursing in Gulu, a major city in northern Uganda.

Over 200 nursing students study at Lacor St. Mary’s Hospital where they are taught by eight full-time faculty. Their main resource is a chalk board, and the students do not have their own textbooks. The goal of our service-learning program has been to assist by providing education and health care in order to improve the quality of life. Our students benefit from the rich cultural partnership and from learning to understand East African concepts of wellness and health care.

In 2012, the JCCC team with their American peers taught the Ugandan faculty and students the Helping Babies Breathe Program developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and W.H.O., to reduce infant mortality. In 2013 our goal was to assist the Ugandan faculty and students with physical assessment and critical thinking skills while enhancing their demonstration (skills) lab. We introduced simulation of patient care which engaged the students and faculty in active hands on learning. In 2014 we hope to teach these concepts in nearby village level 3 health centers.

To enhance the cultural exchange the 12 American students are each assigned two Uganda nursing student mentors that they follow to the clinical wards in the hospital and also spend time with in the classroom. They share meals together and have time to socialize and learn about each other’s customs, families and traditions. The team lives in a guest dormitory alongside the Uganda nursing students.

This experience is challenging – physically, emotionally, and professionally. The American participants all learn about strengths they possess that they were unaware of. They often feel profound joy and deep sadness, and learn what resiliency is and more about our global world. The art and science of caring in nursing is universal.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Upon returning from Uganda, JCCC students have all said that this quote by Gandhi was a good summation of their experience.

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