Melinda (Mindy) Weschler, RN, MPH, a GHSP visiting faculty volunteer in northwest Malawi, grew concerned when she noticed that her students were caring for patients after surgeries with very little treatment or compassion for the pain they were experiencing. She witnessed patients having painful dressing changes without medication, and it motivated her to mobilize the students, faculty, and staff to address this basic human right to compassionate and dignified care.
There were many reasons patients’ pain was going untreated. Students and clinicians did not understand pain or pain management, had cultural beliefs that often led them to accept or ignore pain, and did not have the tools to manage it. Patients were accustomed to just bearing pain without complaint. And the hospital’s system for safeguarding and managing pain medications discouraged their use by requiring nurses to leave the unit, find a supervisor with a key to the locked medicine closet, and then hike to the far-off building where it was located — only to find that there were often no meds in the closet.
Mindy mobilized her students and her faculty and hospital colleagues to assess pain management in this busy district hospital. The outcome is a very exciting practice improvement initiative.
Today the entire process for pain management has been mapped differently. Clinicians are actively assessing pain and using an evidence-based pain management protocol. The hospital agreed to redesign the procurement process for meds and have locked medication boxes on the ward. Students are participating in the evaluation of the initiative. And patients are benefitting.
This story illustrates how one visiting faculty member mobilized a team to make a difference in the life of post-surgical patients, and how this has inspired students and staff to embrace opportunities to enhance care.
It is just one of many such stories that attest to the power of one – one vision of making a difference, one nurse faculty member improving care at the bedside and training and empowering the next generation of nurses to lead with compassion, confidence, and dignity.