Sharing Knowledge. Strengthening Health Systems. Saving Lives. – Cathleen’s Story

CommunicationsBlog, Nursing, Tanzania

“…they identified a young student with jaundice and referred her to the regional hospital for treatment, and identified twelve students who were missing childhood immunizations and were able to refer them to the nearby clinic for vaccinations. Every student, faculty member and community member trained realized right away, that these assessments do make a difference.”Cathleen O’Connor, Community Health Nurse – Tanzania

“Making a difference” is one of my core aspirations.  As a nurse for over 45 years,  I have delivered care in nearly all possible settings: hospital, home, clinic, health offices and all types of schools as a nurse and instructor. Prior to coming to Tanzania, I was most familiar with the health needs of school-aged children and their families as a certified school nurse. I took a holistic approach to providing care and education to students, parents, and teachers on issues from diabetes and asthma to child care and hygiene.

When I IMG_0983arrived in Tanzania, I was truly able to fulfill my “making a difference” dream, by working collaboratively with Lucy Kamakaba, my counterpart and Community Health faculty at Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences (CUHAS) in Mwanza, Tanzania.  When I arrived,  we identified there was not a hands-on health assessment for school-aged children in the surrounding region. Given the poor child health indicators in the area, we set-out to change that.

Working together with fellow volunteer Deb Goldman, we IMG_0125embarked on a collaborative effort with CUHAS to create a basic school assessment tool for screening BMI, vision, hearing, dental and skin care.  The goals was to deliver care to the underserved population of school children while exposing nursing students to the community health care finding process.  Sustainability will occur as more faculty incorporate the School Health Assessment at CUHAS into their curriculum, reaching more children in new villages and demonstrating the value of increased care for children.

In the first semester, we piloted this tool with the second year nursing students and trained them how to use the assessment tool. We purchased scales, printed  vision charts and provided tape measures as no supplies were readily available. The nursing students immediately felt empowered and realized how powerful screening and prevention can be. They identified one young student with jaundice and  after a home visit referred her and her sibling to the regional hospital for treatment. They identified twelve students who were missing childhood immunizations and  referred them to the nearby clinic for vaccinations. Every student, student family, faculty member and community member recognized  right away, that these  assessments do make a difference.

– Cathleen O’Connor, Volunteer – Tanzania

Share this Story