In the land of lions and zebras, the cycle of life is obvious. Death is as much a part of life as birth.
Easing people compassionately and peacefully through the end of life can be tough, though, when resources are few. That’s where a City of Hope nursing expert can make a difference.
City of Hope’s Betty Ferrell, R.N., Ph.D., was among six American health specialists who recently traveled to Tanzania to share their techniques with African health professionals.
The team was part of the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, or ELNEC, a national education initiative to help nurses better care for patients at the end of life. City of Hope and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing administer ELNEC through a slate of nationally recognized nursing experts.
During the trip to Tanzania, Ferrell and three other nurses, a physician and a course coordinator traveled to the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in the capital city of Dar es Salaam. They were met there by 38 nurses from rural clinics and hospitals in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Zanzibar, Zambia and Malawi, as well as several Tanzanian health officials.
The trainers were struck by both the beauty of the region and the profound health needs of those who live there. The cancer institute is the only one in a nation of 40 million people. It can only accommodate 160 patients, but many more need services. Patients often share beds and line up outside to await treatment.
“There is often a ratio of one nurse to every 50 patients in Tanzania settings,” Ferrell said, “so nurses face difficult challenges in providing care.”
Yet the nurses in Tanzania were driven by their dedication to help others — a tie that binds the health experts together across continents.
“We were so impressed with the commitment of the nurses working in Tanzania in the most difficult circumstances. They were very interested in learning more about palliative care,” said Ferrell, research scientist in the Department of Nursing Research & Education and principal investigator for the ELNEC project at City of Hope.
During the training, nurses learned how to help patients better manage pain and symptoms and assist others through grief. They also shared their response to challenges of improving care where so many have cancer and AIDS.
ELNEC trainers also made home visits to rural areas, met with nurses in a district hospital and visited an AIDS orphanage.
Support from the Oncology Nursing Foundation helped make the trip possible.
ELNEC, which began in 2000, was initially funded by a major grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Since then, the National Cancer Institute, the Aetna Foundation, the Archstone Foundation and the California HealthCare Foundation also have funded the effort.