Contact: Allison Benner, College Relations Associate - Media, 610-740-3790


Trip to Ghana & Kenya Sheds Light on Healthcare Issues Facing African Nurses

Allentown, PA (January 15, 2007) - With national headlines about campaigns to fight the African AIDS epidemic and the problem of a crippling nursing shortage fresh in their minds, two members of the Cedar Crest College nursing faculty were confronted with the reality of the challenges facing Ghana and Kenya during a recent trip to those countries.  Dr. Laurie Murray, chair of the nursing department, and Professor Joan Timalonis brought much needed supplies donated by local organizations and returned with compelling stories and images of what they encountered.

In Kenya, Murray and Timalonis saw first-hand the effects of AIDS on both the healthcare system and the people of Kenya during visits to three hospitals and two schools of nursing, as well as orphanages for children whose parents have succumbed to AIDS.  "AIDS is killing many people between the ages of 20 and 40, which leaves children with no parents and the elderly with no family to care for them," says Murray.  "The healthcare system has big needs including some of the most basic supplies like bed sheets and paper, but the country is working hard with what they have to implement voluntary testing and prevention programs to reduce the spread of AIDS."

In addition to the huge problem of AIDS in Africa, social and cultural beliefs also act as barriers to proper medical care for many.  Professor Timalonis was particularly touched by a visit with a Kenyan woman and her son, who despite an energetic and loving personality, is confined to a wheelchair because of spastic muscle movement and joint problems.  Timalonis learned that the boy's mother had been very private about his condition due to the stigma attached to children with mental or physical disabilities.  After assessing the child's abilities, Timalonis taught his mother some basic Range of Motion exercises and other techniques to improve his mobility and prevent further joint issues.  "During our visit, I saw this mother's love and hope for her son overcome her fear of letting others know about his condition," says Timalonis.  "She was eager to learn how she could help him and had resolved to start professional physical therapy for him.  Her courage is inspirational."

As part of an ongoing relationship with the Narh-Bita School of Nursing in Tema, Ghana, Murray and Timalonis were thrilled to donate textbooks and other teaching materials to the school and also attended class demonstrations and a matriculation ceremony for students.

"In both countries we learned that their nursing students are learning the same basic foundations as ours.  Unfortunately their resources are much more limited," says Murray.  "For example, each student in our program has their own textbook.  In the schools we visited, the students are essentially writing their own textbooks on paper from one teacher's manual."

Despite severely limited access to the Internet and other tools and resources, the African nursing students and educators had a few things to teach Murray and Timalonis.  During a class exercise in patient care, the students practiced helping a patient out of the hospital bed to use the mock bathroom set up in the nursing lab and then back into bed.  "Here was a task that nurses complete every day, and yet we never address it in our classes at Cedar Crest," says Murray.  "An exercise such as this stresses the importance of every aspect of patient care."  The professors say that they plan to incorporate a similar exercise in the Cedar Crest nursing lab experience.

"There are so many ways we can utilize what we learned in our teaching here at Cedar Crest.  I already know that this experience has made me a better nurse," says Timalonis.  "I'm confident that it will make my students better nurses as well." 

Both Dr. Murray and Professor Timalonis are available to share their experiences of African culture and the particular healthcare issues facing the countries they visited with the media as well as community organizations and schools that want to learn more.  To schedule and interview or for more information, please contact the College Relations Office at 610-740-3790.




**IMAGES ATTACHED - Courtesy of Cedar Crest College


Nurses in Africa
CCCNursingKenyaImage8.jpg -
Professor Joan Timalonis (second from left) and Dr. Laurie Murray (fourth from left) pose with students and administrators of the Narh-Bita School of Nursing in Tema, Ghana.


Dr. Muray in Africa
CCCNursingKenyaImage7.jpg -
Dr. Laurie Murray (right) presents donations of textbooks and supplies to the Narh-Bita School of Nursing in Tema, Ghana during a matriculation ceremony.


Nurses in Africa
- Professor Joan Timalonis practices Range of Motion exercises with a disabled boy in Kenya.


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