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  • Writer's pictureChristina

Safety Net

It started as a simple patient education project. Our Dutch nursing student wanted to educate pediatric patients and their patients about sleeping under bed nets, and then one thing led to another. First of all, we realized that there were no bed nets available for patients in the pediatric ward. How could we educate about using bed nets if we weren’t modeling that while the patients were in the hospital? That led to interesting discussions with nursing, finance, pharmacy, and even the cleaners. The student updated me as she learned each piece of the systems-level problem: there used to be bed nets, but funding stopped, so we stopped getting new ones. The old ones were not washed regularly, and so many became infested with bed bugs that nobody wanted to use them. So they were all taken down, and we found ourselves moving ever closer to malaria season without bed nets for our hospitalized patients, much less a planned intervention for the community. It was incredible to watch this student tirelessly working to get to the bottom of the issue. She raised more than enough money to buy nets for our hospital, and she had enough left over to distribute to some nearby health centers. The best part was that multiple levels of the hospital leadership and clinical staff were prepared to make this a sustainable change. It was an exciting day when the bed nets came. But even more exciting for me was watching this student discover the complexities of Global Health and systems-level solutions. Sometimes the problems that seem simple have deeply rooted causes, and just pouring resources into a system doesn’t always mean that the system is ready to receive the change. By the time she finished her time at Nkhoma, she knew she had made a difference for us and our patients. And I had a suspicion that her time here would change the way that she approached patient education projects, hospital needs, and global health in the future.

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