Writings from the Field: Swaziland's Super Nurses
Following a round of exciting meetings in Manzini to discuss how information and knowledge sharing on HIV/AIDS might be strengthened in Swaziland, I was looking forward to the weekend and staying at a funky B&B in a gorgeous farming valley outside of the capital, Mbabane.
As I sat down to breakfast on Saturday morning, I must have done about six double-takes at the gentleman sitting at the table next to mine. As fate would have it, it was somebody I had known from university in the United States – and now we had run into each other in his country! This world is definitely getting smaller.
As a telecommunications expert, he was interested in mobile health and other topics. Needless to say, we had plenty to talk about. As I described K4Health’s mission and activities, he quickly made a list of his friends whom I had to meet, including a doctor working at a pediatric AIDS clinic. The very next day, I found myself sitting in the doctor’s home as a guest.
During my visit, the doctor told me how nurses deliver a tremendous portion of the health services in Swaziland, especially given an acute shortage of physicians. As we talked about nurses’ access to information resources, continuous education opportunities, and other topics, he told me about a series of interviews he had recently conducted for an open nurse position.
One of his questions during the interviews intended to find out how candidates kept up with the latest HIV care and treatment, and what they did to increase their knowledge. Few candidates mentioned reading as an activity, in part because accessing appropriate information can be quite difficult, and the scale of the epidemic and the volume of services they deliver leave little time for anything else. Among the group, however, there were a few candidates fortunate to attend trainings twice a year sponsored by international organizations. The doctor noted that the trainings were great opportunities, but not a sustainable solution or one available to all health workers in the country.
The doctor did mention that there were a few “super nurses” among the candidates. He explained that these nurses spent their own time (and often money) to go to an Internet café or to the National AIDS Information Centre to seek the latest information on care and treatment. Not surprisingly, one of these women was offered the position.
This story reminded me of the advantage of having access to information. It is an affirmation that we must continue working together to remove barriers to access, and strive towards health information for all: future super nurses and their patients are depending on us.
Scott Dalessandro, Communications Specialist