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Pediatric Nursing in the Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

New blog by Lubega Martin medical student form Makerere University College of Health Sciences (Uganda) who has completed his elective in Pediatric Emergency Medicine to Kamuzu College of Nursing (Malawi) through GEMx. 

In this modern digital world, it’s not rare that someone can abruptly begin smiling with their smartphone!!! That was the mood after I read an email notification from our international coordinator that my request to have a pediatric exchange experience at Kamuzu College of Nursing had been accepted. The next few weeks were filled with excitement and preparation to visit Malawi and get a feel of the pediatric nursing experience that side. Remember, Malawi is one of the African countries were most pediatric protocols like ETAT were developed, this too geared up the excitement. Surely my anticipation was high, wouldn’t wait to fly to and stay and have study experience in the warm heart of Africa. Unlike many who have their international exchange visits in the course of their training, partly triggered by the hunt for grades, our exchange visit was a month after we had finished our final university exams. All the learning was triggered by a passion for the field, not grades at all. This gave us a chance to learn and explore several things at our own pace.

The people of Malawi

Malawians call their country the warm heart of Africa and surely this one month was enough to testify this. The welcome from the airport and interaction all through the thirty days we spent on their land, just calls one to go back again and again. I come from one of the Bantu tribes in Uganda, Malawians are not different from the Bantu in Uganda. It was hard for many college students to realize that I was not a fellow Malawian, many who met me on compound or ward would rush to talk to me in their local language, we indeed resemble them!!! The historical Bantu migration is real!!! This also made it somehow easy for us to learn a few words in their Chichewa language since some words were like the words of some of our local languages in Uganda.

Learning experience

The one-month exchange period was to help us enhance clinical skills in the management of pediatric emergencies. As a prerequisite, we sought authorization from the Nurses and midwives council of Malawi. This required us to sit for interviews based on pediatric nursing only after which we were indexed and allowed to carry on our learning experience in the various pediatric wards at Kamuzu central hospital in Lilongwe.

Based on our objectives, we were attached to four wards: children’s’ OPD, children’s ward, Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and children’s high dependency unit. While at the hospital, we were taught and supervised by nursing instructors from KCN, ward in charges, fellow students, interns, and consultants. 

We successfully finished our four weeks of pediatric emergency experience in good health with multiple skills in pediatric emergency management, use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) in management of a child with respiratory distress, application of ETAT protocols in the daily management of pediatric emergencies.

Accommodation and Meals 

We were accommodated within the college at the students’ hostels and we had most of our meals from a private supplier who comes at the college’s cafeteria. Although the meals are almost like those in Uganda, the way they are prepared and served is different and worth exploring.

 

Recreation 

We participated in the 40th anniversary of the college which took place on 12th August 2019 at the main campus in Lilongwe. The college was celebrating 40 years of service, caring and teaching the nursing profession in Malawi. It was such good timing!!!

 

It all got sweet when one of the Ugandan biomedical engineers and leaders of the Ugandan community in Malawi: Mrs. Lydia learned that a pair of Ugandan students were at the hospital for clinical experience. She invited us to her home where we met over twenty countrymen and women, had lunch and dinner, had a social warm-up, connected, shared contacts and many have inspired us to go back and practice from Malawi. 

How unfair it would be if we left Malawi without visiting the historical Lake Malawi, we spent one of our last Saturdays at Nkhotakota, one of the shores of Lake Malawi, about 200km west of Lilongwe. We participated in sports like football, volleyball, and netball with the college team as the versed a local team at the lakeshore.

Thank you, Makerere University, for this partnership with GEMx, thank you GEMx, thank you Kamuzu College of Nursing, thank you for the University of Malawi for this great opportunity. Malawi, I will soon come back.

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