A young Ponoka woman, who has recently returned from Africa upon completing her internship, has described her stay in Tanzania as an “eye opening experience” and said she would be looking forward to going back for another assignment there.
Sanam Amiri, a nursing student at Grant MacEwan University in the Psychiatric Nursing program, went early summer to work as an intern at the Muhimbili Hospital in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, assigned to the psychiatric ward of the facility in line with the specialty she is developing at school.
Before leaving for her assignment, she also collected donations of medical supplies and toys for kids living in the area of her assignment.
Writing after her return to thank her supporters who contributed with cash, medical supplies and other items to her trip, Amiri said: “My area of focus at the Muhimbili Hospital in Dar es Salaam was in the psychiatric ward and it was a rude awakening in comparison to the Centennial Centre in Ponoka where I work and study.”
Reflecting on the attitude towards mental patients and the conditions they were kept in, Amiri said everything she observed there was in sharp contrast to what she lived and studied in Ponoka.
“At Muhimbili Hospital, patients were kept in a large cell behind bars where they were responsible to get their own medications. It was very difficult to see the poor conditions these patients lived in and how little dignity and respect they were given,” she said.
“The nurses on the unit were very kind and appreciative but had very limited responsibilities due to the lack of understanding of mental illness and its management.”
Amiri said during her assignment, she could conduct mental status exams in both acute and outpatient settings alongside providing teaching seminars to the nurses on the unit on mental health awareness and the importance of effective communication in the nurse-patient relationship.
In an interview, Amiri said she was also surprised at the lack of hygiene and the very limited availability of medication for the psychiatric ward patients.
“It opens up your eyes and gives you a perspective as to how lucky we are in Canada,” she said when asked about her conclusions from her trip.
She said she would like to find another opportunity in the course of the next year to have a similar experience but with a longer duration.