By Lieselot Van den Broeck
My first week in George was over before I even knew it. Not only did I move from Cape Town, but I also started to live with a bunch of new people in a new environment with a completely different internship. Even though everybody is so friendly and open from the first moment, I still have to get used to everything. That is why the first day I had lunch with Esmarie (my supervisor here, she is so sweet!) and after that, she showed me around in the George Hospital and the school campus. I got to know the whole nursing team with whom I will be working with in the future.
The next day I drove with Jana and Charlotte to Thembalethu, a township just outside George. Here we will be working with the organisation Itemba Lobomi. Every day during the week the sisters of Itemba Lobomi visit patients for health education and prevention. This is very much needed in this neighbourhood. People here often live in miserable circumstances with a lack of space, a lack of hygiene and a lack of good examples to look up to. Drugs and alcohol often take the upper hand here and causes a lot of problems.
The organisation Itemba Lobomi has a very nice aim for this neighbourhood. They really want to give a better future for a lot of people and help them where they can. Every shift you have nurses in groups of two who go to their patients with the necessary material and emotional support. The planning of the week is clear:
- Monday: going to the creches, screening the children
- Tuesday: home screenings and palliative care + visit homes of people who missed their appointment
- Wednesday: wound care + visit homes of people who missed their appointment
- Thursday: visiting ‘high-risk patients’ (mostly HIV patients)
- Friday: more home screening
During a home screening, the sisters and nurses mostly screen the living situations of their patients and see what they can do to improve this.
I noticed that the organisation Itemba Lobomi faces problems we don’t have in Belgium. For example, finding the right patient in the right home. Thembalethu (that exists mostly out of makeshift houses) doesn’t always have clear streets with separate houses. This makes it very hard for the sisters to find the right patient as quickly as possible. During our rounds, we often went to empty or wrong houses. On the other hand, they also do things where we can learn from in Belgium. For example, they try to care for the whole community instead of only the patients that were assigned to them. When we get to a wrong house, the nurses just give all the help they need to the people living in that house. Another example is how nurses of Itemba Lobomi can be very creative. Sometimes they don’t have enough material so they need to work with the stuff they do have. Nurses in Belgium are normally used to having everything they need.
To summarize, I think it is a nice thought to know that even if situations seem hopeless and miserable, there are always organisations and people that will try to look after you. Itemba Lobomi does in that way so much more than only nursing interventions. They also look after the wellbeing of a lot of people and try to help them where possible. In these moments I notice that we, as Belgium nursing students, can learn a lot from them.