Treatment is just more than medications

Callie Ashlock was one of eight students who went to Cameroon for Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College’s first international immersion program. She shares with us what she’s learned.

“To say that my experience in Cameroon was one of the best during my nursing education would be an understatement.  It very well may have been one of the top experiences of my life. I was honored to have been selected as one of the students going to Cameroon back in March. We all worked very hard at making it a successful trip and I think that has all paid off.

Getting to know the Cameroonian people was an honor. I have traveled all over the world and their hospitality and kindness is like no other. The students impressed me with their unassuming attitudes of us and their knowledge on so many subjects. The students spend so much of their time working on their education, it was inspiring. They had so many questions for us. We spent most of our free time talking about how we live our lives. One minute we would be talking about how much each other’s shoes cost us and the next we would be discussing politics in each of our countries.

The workshop that we delivered to the Cameroonian nursing students was eye-opening. We all had our own group of students that we met with everyday to discuss issues on HIV/AIDS. I was taken aback by their knowledge on the biology of the subject but how little they knew on the psychosocial aspects of the disease. They told me that the prejudgment of individuals with HIV/AIDS was prevalent in Cameroon. In most hospitals, there are specific HIV/AIDS wards. People who visit, work or go to those wards fall into the misconception that they too have HIV/AIDS. We talked about how they could, as nurses, break this idea and help patients, their families and other healthcare workers overcome this perception.

The most important thing I learned on my trip was that how you treat a patient, the compassion that you hold for them, is so important for their recovery and well-being. So much, in fact, that it is just as important as the medications you give them for their illness.

Here’s an example: you have a patient who is diagnosed with HIV. You can teach him that taking his medications is the most important thing he can do. The patient can acknowledge and understand this. However, there are so many other factors that come into play. What do his family and friends think about his disease? Do they have compassion for him? Do they even know about it? How did you as the nurse treat him as a patient after realizing he was HIV positive? How did the phlebotomist that just took his blood treat him? How did his insurance agent treat him when he was discussing his bill over the phone? All of these people impact his health. Stress is one of the major players in HIV by breaking down the person’s immune system. How we treat someone from the first words out of our mouth are so crucial to a fair chance at a long life with HIV.”

- Callie Ashlock, Upper Division BSN ’11

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