Ms Lucy Kisaka (in grey) facilitating a practical session
"There is no health without mental health", declares Stewart Mbelwa, a senior instructor at the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) Tanzania.
Over two days from July 29, Mr Mbelwa facilitated an Essentials of mental health workshop at the Dar es Salaam campus. According to Mr Mbelwa, the aim of the workshop was "…to build the capacity of nurses and midwives in applying the nursing process to mental health clinical practice." Diploma student nurses from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) were taken through theoretical knowledge of mental health and psychiatric nursing, as well as shown how to integrate the theoretical knowledge with practice according to the nursing process framework.
The significance of this training cannot be overemphasized. Mental health in Tanzania faces several challenges. A 2017 study by two academics based out of MUHAS asserted that low and middle-income countries, like Tanzania, and her other East African counterparts continue to struggle to implement the World Health Organization's recommendations on improving mental health services. These challenges include human resource constraints, inadequate training in mental health care, lack of drugs, low prioritization in the government budget, lack of skilled care providers at the primary healthcare level, problematic insurance coverage for mental disorders and stigma. Therefore, carrying out these workshops addresses some of the human resource and training needs as it multiplies the number of psychiatric nurses who can provide mental health care. Moreover, Mr Mbelwa was keen on providing mental health training because he noticed a disturbing trend where student nurses were performing poorly in the area of mental health when they sit for the Tanzania Nursing and Midwifery Council Licensure Examinations. Since these examinations focus on clinical application, he knew that AKU-SONAM was well-equipped to help students improve their results and, ultimately increase the number of psychiatric nurses for Tanzania's population.
Similarly, Ms Mary Lyimo and Ms Lucy Kisaka, both AKU-SONAM faculty from Tanzania have been running Essentials of new-born care workshops in healthcare facilities in Dar es Salaam. On July 15, they facilitated an on-site workshop where they taught student nurses and midwives at Sinza Palestina Hospital on how to care for new-borns 60 – 90 minutes after delivery, including resuscitation techniques. As their workshop at Sinza Palestina Hospital was in progress, the AKU-SONAM instructors encountered a situation where they had to rapidly transform their lessons from theory to reality. "During the workshop, we were called to carry out resuscitation during labour… luckily, we were successful. This showed the participants how the skills we were teaching them can be applied in real life to save a baby's life", Ms Mary Lyimo shared. Agnes, one of the student nurses at Sinza Palestina expressed that "This workshop equipped me with knowledge and skills on how to help the baby to breathe. Now I can perform a new-born resuscitation alone and save the lives of (many other) babies."
A few days later on July 26, they also facilitated the same workshop at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital.