Their mission was a sad one: to help people better care for the dying.
But the enormity of their task, their lasting impact and a wealth of new friendships made their journey all the more rewarding.
City of Hope’s Betty Ferrell, R.N., Ph.D., was among six American health professionals who recently traveled to Tanzania to provide specialized training developed by the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, or ELNEC.
ELNEC is a national education initiative to improve end-of-life care. The project provides special training in end-of-life care to nursing educators, specialty nurses in pediatrics, oncology, critical care and geriatrics, and other nurses so they can spread the essential information to nursing students and practicing nurses. City of Hope and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing administer ELNEC through a slate of nationally recognized nursing leaders.
While the project was started to improve nursing and care for the dying in the United States, many ELNEC trainers and faculty have gone abroad to share their knowledge and learn from others. They have traveled to six of the seven continents, representing 42 countries.
In the most recent trip to Tanzania in July, 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 to provide training. They were met there by 38 nurses from rural clinics and hospitals in Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Zanzibar, Zambia and Malawi, as well as Tanzania’s minister of health and the associate director of the minister of health for nursing practice.
“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.
The trainers were struck by both the beauty of the region and the poverty and profound health needs of those who live there. The cancer institute — the only one in a nation of 40 million people — 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.”
During the training, participants learned about aspects of palliative care including pain management, grief and symptom management. Participants shared the challenges of improving care where so many have cancer and AIDS, and so few have the resources to adequately fight these diseases.
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.
More information about ELNEC is available at www.aacn.nche.edu/elnec.