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Student nurses take health education to Zambia

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Student nurses from Stirling are launching a campaign to raise £6,000 to carry out voluntary work in Zambia.

Nicola Walker, Catriona Robinson, Louisa Smith and Nicola Spence, from the University of Stirling, will spend six weeks working with local communities, giving expert information on sexual health and nutrition, as well as dealing with minor ailments and injuries.

“I think I have an open mind,” says Nicola Walker, “and I’m very enthusiastic about the idea of experiencing the Zambians’ way of life - seeing how their medical system works and doing whatever I can to promote positive ideas about health.”

Fellow student Catriona agrees. “I’m hoping we can do some good; making even small changes to people’s understanding of their health would be an achievement.”

Louisa is also looking forward to the experience, although delivering health education to groups will be a first. “I’m used to working with different age groups through my nursing placements so, although it might be a bit daunting the first time I do it, I’m confident I’ll have enough knowledge of the subjects to get the message across to the people I talk to.”

In Lusaka, the girls will visit four health centres, an orphanage and a hospice which cares for the terminally ill - many of whom are young people. It’s in these centres that they will be teaching the local people who use the facilities about health education.

Fiona Doherty, a teaching fellow at the University’s department of nursing and midwifery and one of the volunteer selection panel said “Our students will soon find that while tuberculosis, meningitis and HIV and AIDS are rife, the biggest threats to people’s health in Zambia are the extensive poverty and ignorance, which result in problems such as poor drinking water facilities and sewage systems,” explains Fiona.

“Stirling is the first university to work on a project like this and it illustrates the breadth of opportunity which is available to students who are considering careers in nursing. We had to alter the students’ course assessments so that these were based on teaching, as well as gathering health-related information and examining it in a cultural context. When they come home, they will have to deliver a presentation focusing on who they taught, what they taught and how they taught, while in the field.

“They will get tremendous benefits from the project through experience of another country and the recognition of the influence of cultural beliefs. It will be hands-on and challenging but it will build their confidence in everything from communicating ideas to presentation skills. And their experiences will give us a better idea of how best to prepare other nursing students for similar work in future.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I just want to say a huge thank you to the nursing times for running this story.
    As it is not mentioned, I would like to add that I am also a student nurse, based at Stirling University's Highland Campus, and am the only student from that campus to have been selected to go on the mentioned trip to Zambia. I will be working with Catriona, Louisa and Nicola to raise money for the project, and once there we will be working together to try to make a positive difference to the lives of those we work with.
    Such support and publicity is greatly appreciated, and will hopefully help us reach our fundraising target.

    Nicola Spence.

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  • I think this is an amazing opportunity and as a student nurse i would love to have this opportunity during my course hopefully.

    These 4 student nurses are wonderful people and i wish them all the best. Good luck ladies you are truly inspirational and have made me put my learning into perspective.

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