An American Nursing Student in Malawi

Katie Sanderson, recently shared about her perspective on the recent Auburn University trip to Malawi, now, we’re excited to share a student’s thoughts! 

Clinical mornings in Malawi were made up of something different each day—we never knew what to expect when we tumbled out of our bus.  The one thing we could always count on was to be greeted with smiling faces, our Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) partner and friends, and things we have never seen or experienced before.

Over the span of four days in clinical, there were never less than a few hundred patients waiting when we arrived on site—all eagerly waiting to receive vaccinations, treatment for sickness, and family planning assistance.  During those four days going all around Lilongwe to different villages and communities, I was exposed to more than I have ever seen.

In our clinics, we offered vaccinations for healthy babies, a clinic for children under the age of five who were sick, and family planning for women.  My favorite station to be assigned to was the under five clinic.  Mothers would come and sit with their child in their lap, and my KCN partner and I would work as a team to evaluate our patient.  She would translate for me and we would work together to arrive at a diagnosis and plan of care.

As an American nursing student, having this much autonomy was exciting and terrifying, but it was very clear at the end of each day that we had made a difference in the lives of hundreds of God’s children in Malawi.  It was very humbling to be the Lord’s hands and feet in this situation—being able to give infants and expectant mothers important vaccines to protect against tetanus and other diseases.

Our trip did not only consist of outer clinical sites, however. We were blessed to be welcomed into the homes of Mtendere Village and get to know the children and the house moms.  Momma Ruth and Momma Naomi took me in as their own child and each night we all met together with the children in their houses to have devotionals and sing together.

Being able to travel across the world and find such strong faith in a country that seems to have close to nothing was something that changed my heart and encouraged my faith in a way that I will never forget. This trip was a huge life-changing opportunity that I feel so blessed to have been a part of.

Ruthie Schaefer is a nursing student at Auburn University.

A few of our favorite things…and other random facts about our team.

A few of my favorite things…

Chocolate. My dogs. My red couch. Sunsets. The smell of dryer sheets. –Dana

Books. Greek Yogurt. A long conversation over a steaming cup of chai  (generally at Starbucks). That moment when the wheels of a plane first lift off the ground. Advocating for women and children. –Kimberly

Chocolate. The beach. Making a difference. Family. Bella (my dog). –Terri

Chockit cookies. Grey’s Anatomy. Autumn. Traveling. Fun family gatherings. –Christina

Reading. Traveling. Playing with Millie and Lucy (my dogs). Sports (particularly basketball, volleyball, and AU football). Swimming. –Katie

What story does your family always tell about you?

The one where days after I graduated from high school I flew (for the first time) to Alaska to work in a fish cannery in order to pay for college.  Of course, that happened to be the summer the fishermen decided to go on strike on our tiny Island, Uganik Bay, and only those who woke up really early were given work. I spent the summer waking up far too early to do whatever was available that day…painting the landing dock (aka airport), driving a pallet jack, etc. –Dana

When I was around 2-3 years old, my mom walked into the kitchen and found me on top of the refrigerator.  Initially, she thought that my dad had put me there as a practical joke (which she didn’t think was very funny), but quickly realized that I stood on the back of a chair, crawled into the freezer, and then pulled myself up to the top.  This, after my dad had informed me a few days before that he’d put my doll on top of the refrigerator if I didn’t behave.  I decided to do a test rescue mission.  Let’s just say that “The Strong-Willed Child” by James Dobson became one of my parents’ most referenced books. –Kimberly

About the time I ran away from summer camp with a chicken…. –Terri [note: We ALL want to hear more details on this…]

How I hated eating and found many ways to dispose of my food secretly.  You see, I thought I was smart about it, but I got caught half the time trying to shove food in my brother’s plate or simply wasting half of my meal under the table.  It took me two hours to finish my meals, and I have many childhood pictures left alone at the dining room table.  The thought shocks me now because I sure love food and my veggies!! –Christina

One time, I spent the night away with a friend.  I was in the first or second grade.  When she was busy, I snuck downstairs to use the phone to call my mom and ask “if she could bring my blanket?”  She didn’t answer, so I left it on an answering machine in a very hushed, secret voice. For some odd reason, my parents LOVE to tell this story. –Katie

If you could choose anyone, whom would you pick as your mentor?

Mother Teresa. –Dana

Christine Caine.  I love her passion for mobilizing the church to do what we are called to do, and am rarely left unchallenged by what she has to say.  She also loves Starbucks, perhaps even more than I do, so really, who could ask for more. –Kimberly

Jesus first…then Margaret Thatcher. –Terri

Anne Ledet (a member of my Church).  I have known her for 5 years and absolutely adore her. –Christina

Good question, but I feel like I have a pretty good one in my mom. –Katie

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Sing and play an instrument. –Dana

To speak French and Italian. –Kimberly

Scuba diving. –Terri

Speak three other languages, and I would love to learn how to play the guitar. –Christina [note: We thought you should know, Christina speaks Chichewa and English, and has a good understanding of French, as well as ancient and classic Latin.]

Heart surgery. –Katie

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?

Oprah. –Dana

It is a toss up between Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Beecher Stowe – both women used what was in their hand to catalyze change in their generation.  I love that. –Kimberly

Corrie Ten Boom. –Terri

Oprah Winfrey and/or Nelson Mandela. –Christina

Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale. –Katie

When you have an hour of free time, how do you pass the time?

I read. –Dana & Terri

I love to find a comfy chair (either at home or a coffee shop), and dig in to a good book.  I almost never leave home without a book, pen and highlighter—just in case the opportunity presents itself. –Kimberly

Take a good ol nap! –Christina

Reading or sleeping. –Katie

What was the last book you read?

Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde & Have a New Teen by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman. –Dana

The Harbinger by Jonathon Cahn. –Terri

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali. –Kimberly

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.  It is a very good book – it took me back to childhood, and really provides a good understanding of typical life in Malawi for a lot of kids. –Christina

ZOO by James Patterson. –Katie

What is one of your favorite scripture verses?      

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?  I’m putting you on a light stand.  Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!  Keep open house; be generous with your lives.  By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16) –Dana

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.  (1 John 2:6) –Kimberly

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31) –Terri

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:22-23) –Christina

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (Romans 5:3-5)  –Katie

What’s the most played song on your iPod?

O Praise Him (All This For A King) by David Crowder. –Dana

It is a tie – Hands and Feet by Audio Adrenaline and Indescribable by Chris Tomlin. –Kimberly

Above All by Michael W. Smith. –Terri

I have two – Lengoma by Zahara and Beautiful by Phil Wickham. –Christina

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman. –Katie

The 100X Team

P.S. We’d love to hear your response to these questions…leave a comment here or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

The Definition of Nursing

What is nursing?  Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.

To be a nurse, or to study to become a nurse means that an individual must encompass a desire to help others in a holistic way.  Being a nurse means caring for someone physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and medicinally:  in other words, to care for the mind, body and soul.

In my most recent trip to Malawi, I was privileged to witness these definitions of nursing first hand.

Let me back up a little.  As most of you may know, after being an RN in the ICU for over three years,  I have recently transitioned into a full-time job at 100X Development where I will coordinate various nursing projects to help improve the healthcare system in Malawi.  One of the first ways that 100X moved forward in improving healthcare delivery was by developing a consortium of universities, both stateside and in Malawi.  Auburn University (my alma mater) and Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) in Malawi, two leaders in the development of improving the nursing standards both in the classroom and at the bedside, were among the first to join.

One of the most obvious ways to get this started was to send a group of US nursing students to Malawi to work alongside Malawian students–we knew this would stretch, mold and challenge students in a way that far outreaches ANY lesson that can be taught in a classroom.  By traveling to a developing nation where needs are overwhelming and resources are scarce, students would be pushed to the brink of communicating beyond just words, to think beyond the medicine and the machines, and treat over 100 people in a matter of a few hours.

Auburn University School of Nursing (AUSON), under the guidance of Dr. Constance Smith-Hendricks, was ready to meet this challenge head-on, and Kamuzu College of Nursing, under the leadership of Madam Address Malata, welcomed the idea of hosting a group of students that would also provide a new learning experience for her students.

So on September 7, Dr. Hendricks, Dana Blanchard, eight nursing students and I departed for what would be one of the greatest learning experiences any student could ever imagine.  Over the next 10 days, these students witnessed more need and poverty than one could think of.  They treated anywhere from 550 to 700 (hard to keep track of the exact number due to the large crowds) women, children and babies.  Their skills, knowledge and perseverance was challenged as the crowds lined up to wait for hours to see an American nurse, and yet they responded with professionalism and grace.

The AUSON students also experienced the challenges of being a college student in a developing nation by being partnered with a nursing student from KCN. The relationships formed between these student pairs was just another positive outcome in one of the most successful and educational trips that 100X has ever taken part in.  As the days of the trip continued to pass by, the students were able to experience clinical settings ranging from home-based care out in straw-roofed huts, to rural clinics in the middle of villages, a health care center, and even some time in a labor and delivery ward.

The eight student nurses who travelled to Malawi with me were truly impressive young ladies.  While their eyes were opened to an entire new setting of healthcare and a totally new definition of “need”, it was their souls that were touched by the people of Malawi.  They will without a doubt be some of the best-prepared nursing graduates, but even more so, they will be part of forever changing the health care system in a country that so desperately needs a positive change.

Nursing care comes in many forms.  Sometimes it is the ability to make someone feel physically comfortable by various means.  Other times it is the ability to improve the body’s ability to achieve or maintain health.  But often it is an uncanny yet well honed knack to see beyond the obvious and address, in some way, the deeper needs of the human soul. 

~Donna Wilk Cardillo, A Daybook for Beginning Nurses

Katie Sanderson, Program Director for Nursing Education


Partnering to Save Lives

Last week I had the opportunity to lead a team of medical professionals to Malawi to plan for future medical trips—trips that will include nursing students from partnering universities or surgical teams from US hospitals.  I was joined by Dr. Constance Hendricks, a nursing professor at Auburn University School of Nursing (AUSON), Dr. Judi Jehle, a specialist in women’s health, and Ms. Mary Singletary, an RN and President of the National Council of Women of the United States.

While in country, our team was able to build relationships with some men and women who, just like the 100X Team, have high hopes for the future of healthcare in Malawi.  We were able to discuss some of the many challenges facing this developing nation.  Two of the challenges that were mentioned consistently were the shortage of trained nurses and midwives and the need for safer and more accessible healthcare facilities.

It was with great excitement that the 100X team was able to offer some options and opportunities to assist with these needs.  With the recent partnership between 100X Development, Auburn University and the Kamuzu College of Nursing, we were able to lay plans for a trip of AUSON professors and students to travel to Malawi in October 2012.  This trip will allow for hands-on experience, professional seminars, and simulation labs that will guarantee both the Auburn and Kamuzu students a better learning experience and in turn allow for a more rounded nursing graduate.  Students will train in the local hospitals, clinics, schools, and participate in health screenings in the local villages.

It is our hope that this collaboration will encourage nursing students and professors alike to step across cultural boundaries and realize that at the heart of nursing lies the commonality of caring for the patient in the most efficient and holistic way.

Our team was also excited about the possibility of Blessings Hospital serving as a future clinical site.  One of the evaluators for Blessings said, “This hospital is so spacious and has the potential to serve many women and children in the country.  We are excited about the future of this hospital.”

Blessings is currently running an outpatient clinic, a free “Under 5” clinic, a weekly pediatric physical therapy session, and is preparing to launch a free ART (a clinic specific for HIV patients) clinic.  With a maternal death rate of 1 in 36, and the 10th highest infant mortality rate in the world, it is essential that the hospitals and clinics in Malawi be staffed with fully trained medical personnel and midwives.  Blessings is equipped, staffed, and ready to take on the challenge of delivering better healthcare to all people in Malawi and 100X is behind them in this effort!

We believe that these opportunities will provide medical care to an overwhelming amount of Malawian people no matter what age or need.  Together, 100X, AUSON, and KCN are excited about the future of healthcare for the Malawian nation!  It is our goal to fully educate, motivate and facilitate the healthcare needs of Malawi.  Please join us in this effort to save lives!

Katie Sanderson, Program Director for Nursing Education

The Cost of Inaction

Today in Malawi, I held a 5-month-old baby in my arms who was no heavier than 7 pounds due to severe malnourishment and a health care system that has overlooked this tiny human.  Many thoughts ran through my mind.  How could this baby boy, (who also had a twin sister as tiny and malnourished as him) make it this long without the necessary nutrients? Why was this health issue not addressed earlier? And the answer is clear:  the nutrition is not available and the health care is not accessible.

In a country where many only eat once a day, the lack of nutrition is a foundation for many other struggles.  How can a child in school truly focus on academics when he is worried about when his next meal will be?  How can a weak mother walk five or more miles to seek healthcare?  How can a sick mother provide for her three children?  The cycle that begins with lack of nutrition is a vicious one.

Inaccessible healthcare is also a major issue.  In some villages, like Chadza, a village with more than 250 people, the nearest clinic is 27 kilometers (18 miles) away.  And these people, who do not have access to nutritious food, certainly lack the transportation to make a trip to the doctor an “easy” one.  This inaccessibility is a major factor in the alarming maternal death rate (1 in 36) here in Malawi.

Action MUST be taken, and that is exactly what 100X Development is doing!  While the statistics are alarming, I am very encouraged at the potential we have to help the country of Malawi succeed.  There are many basic interventions that will help this developing nation and I am CERTAIN that with the right ideas and the accurate resources, 100X can truly improve the lives of all Malawian people.  By providing the appropriate nutrients to small children and babies, and the suitable nutritional supplements to expecting mothers, we are in turn ensuring a healthier lifestyle for both mom and baby.

With the proper resources, we will make healthcare much easier to access for all Malawian people. When people’s stomachs are full and their body is healthy, a nation of any size can prosper.  Our team at 100X is very excited about the possibilities in Malawi and we ask you to join us in the charge to make Malawi a better, healthier and happier nation!

Katie Sanderson, Program Director for Nursing Education