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Keeping Nurses Healthy to Help Patients

  • May 12, 2010

Adila* is a dedicated student on the path to becoming a nurse in Tanzania – but dangerous workplace hazards could derail her plans. In honor of International Nurses Day, AmeriCares is highlighting a program to help keep nurses safe, healthy and free from workplace injuries.

Adila is one of the first women from her rural community in Tanzania to pursue a professional career in health care. She is a student nurse at the Bugando Medical Center (BMC), a teaching hospital in one of Africa’s most medically under-served countries. In addition to her enrollment in hospital’s nursing school, Adila’s on-the-job training includes helping over 50 patients each week one of Tanzania’s busiest hospitals. Thousands of men, women and children in need of critical medical attention rely on Adila, and other student nurses like her, to help provide the care they need.

But as she cares for patients, Adila places her own health at risk. Tanzanian health care workers regularly come into close contact with patients suffering from dangerous infections. African hospital patients have the world’s highest rates of HIV, hepatitis and other contagious diseases – placing their caregivers at high risk of infection from needle sticks and exposure to contaminated blood.

Adila recently suffered a needle stick while drawing blood from a patient. Needle stick injuries occur almost daily in hospitals, most resulting from a lack of proper training and lack of much needed infection control supplies. Every needle stick has the potential risk of transmitting deadly diseases. If Adila were to become sick from a needle stick, her illness would not only be personally devastating, but would also affect the hundreds of patients who depend on her for treatment each year, as well as Adila’s family whom she helps support.

Fortunately, BMC participates in AmeriCares Health Worker Safety Initiative. Adila was immediately tested and was found to be negative for any serious illnesses. She also received specialized medicines to prevent the transmission of more dangerous diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.

The AmeriCares Health Worker Safety Initiative in Tanzania addresses the importance of keeping doctors, nurses, clinicians, and other caregivers healthy. The AmeriCares Safety Initiative is a three year program that will train over 2,000 health care professionals at BMC.

“Today AmeriCares stands proud of its continued support for nurses both in Africa, and around the world, in honor of International Nurses Day,” said Dr. Frank Bia, AmeriCares Medical Director. “Nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives play absolutely essential roles in patient care throughout the developing world, often more so than doctors themselves and we need to protect their health and safety.”

Adila’s formal safety training has taught her proper methods for reporting and treating needlestick injuries. Through the AmeriCares Health Worker Safety Initiative, BMC has developed standards for reporting and treating injuries. As part of the program, AmeriCares also sends regular supplies of essential safety equipment, such as latex gloves and containers for used needles.

AmeriCares sends infection control items to countries throughout Africa, across the United States and to around the world including Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico and Uzbekistan. From infection control masks and gloves to safety needles and sharps disposal systems, the items AmeriCares sends help keep nurses healthy so they can better take care of themselves and their patients. 

*Name changed to protect privacy

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