Ghanaian Health Sciences Interns Explore HIV Patient Care Beyond the Textbook
Brown University + University of Ghana
Residents living in rural communities across Ghana receive information about HIV/AIDS and prevention of the disease through basic, often limited resources offered by local hospitals and clinics. In addition, the shortage of well-trained medical professionals who offer proper care to people living with HIV/AIDS remains an ongoing global health challenge.
A multi-faceted USAID project between the University of Ghana and Brown University is addressing the obstacles of HIV/AIDS management in Ghana through educational offerings, training, research, and community engagement.
Among their strategies, partners implemented a six-week program that allows talented students at UG the opportunity to intern at nearby rural hospitals. While there, the students receive hands-on experience and learn practical approaches to responding to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, whose conditions can be further complicated when they also suffer from illnesses such as malaria, tuberculosis, hypertension, and malnutrition.
UG students Mabel Torku and Sylvia Takyi participated in the program, serving as interns at Apam Catholic Hospital in the areas of nursing and dietary care, respectively. “When they first come, they have fears. They are shy,” said Rev. Father Augustine Essel, head of the hospital’s HIV unit. “After, they see how we are and they are relaxed.”
Through the University of Ghana-Brown University project, managed by Higher Education for Development, Torku, a nurse of 18 years, first learned how to care for HIV patients. “I have never come to learn about an HIV person until now,” said Torku. “I had the opportunity to put smiles on people’s faces.When you come to rural areas you realize how much they need you.”
For Takyi, the program opened her eyes to patients with diseases she had not seen in the city. “It made me read a lot and made me conscious of other things that I had not seen before. Things that were not taught in class, I had to learn them before getting into class.”
When Takyi observed patients consuming food brought in from vendors outside the hospital, she alerted staff and took action, designing a hospital menu, which was quickly put in place. By the end of her internship, Takyi was asked to serve as a hospital dietician.
The expansion of students’ health care skills is a direct result of new experiences gained at rural hospitals that benefit the hospital staff, the interns, and ultimately, the patients.