Learning is a Two-Way Street
“The mornings were devoted to educational presentations by HNC professionals, including Medical Director Dr. Zizzo, on how we address diseases that are prevalent in Malawi such as HIV/AIDs, liver disease and certain cancers. We shared basic preventive measures to help patients avoid needless pain, keeping in mind that patients within the villages are not sleeping in ‘beds’ but straw mats on dirt floors.”
April said that one of her enduring memories will be the time she spent with her counterpart, Nurse Ellen, as they conducted home visits. “I was amazed and delighted, but not surprised, at the way Ellen dove into the work as we performed patient assessments. Ellen’s level of professionalism was matched by her empathy and compassion. She asked questions, listened meticulously to responses and made each patient feel special and well-attended-to.”
Collaboration and CaffeineApril noted, “Just as Ellen learned about our medical approach from me, I learned about Malawian customs from her. After leaving the room of a terminally ill patient comfortably ensconced in a residence, Ellen’s eyes teared up as she confided, ‘I am so sad. I don’t understand why this man is alone.’ In Malawi, life and death are based on an ‘It takes a village’ communal lifestyle. Dying patients are never alone; someone is always at their bedside.”
April and Ellen discussed these cultural differences as they traveled from one patient visit to the next, with time built in to give coffee aficionado Ellen her first taste of Starbucks. “Some things are the same the world over,” the two partners agreed.