After 20 years of practicing nursing, Kami Lindberg, RN, never thought her career would take her to Ghana.
It was the Sanford World Clinic and its newly launched Global Nurse Mentor Program that gave her an experience she’ll never forget.
The program aims to impact health across the globe through shared learning experiences with Sanford Health’s international partners. World Clinic was looking for specific nurses with a specific knowledge base to fit the areas of need.
In November 2021, Sanford Health announced the six who would be participating in this effort out of the 80 total candidates interviewed. Organizers were planning for three. The quantity of quality applicants caused a re-assessment of how many they could use, according to Tracy Bieber who is director of clinical services at Sanford World Clinic.
Nurses commit 10 hours a month to join World Clinic partners virtually and visit their partnering World Clinic at least once. The other locations for this year’s program include Costa Rica and New Zealand.
Lindberg, who is a nurse navigator in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was selected for mentorship in Ghana in early March. The selection process determined she is the right candidate for the needs in maternity and midwifery care, breast health and more.
Sanford has five locations in Ghana.
Going to Ghana
For one week, Lindberg and Bieber traveled to Cape Coast, Mankessim, Adenta and Kasoa.
“Once we got to our first site visit, I was super impressed,” Lindberg told Sanford Health News.
Despite the lack of resources and tools other than ultrasound equipment, she said the midwives there were so prepared with knowledge to communicate with and educate their patients.
“In a setting where you don’t have as many resources at your fingertips, they gave great patient care,” she said. “It’s very different from our care but impressive to watch them work and use the tools they had effectively.”
One unforgettable memory of hers was helping with a patient’s labor and delivery from start to finish.
“That was really phenomenal to see because, obviously, it’s very different going through a labor and delivery there versus here. It was emotional throughout the entire journey,” she said, recalling the differences and often times the challenges in access to care in a developing nation.
For example, all vaginal births are non-medicated or “natural” and often times, the only pain relief medication women receive during labor is the equivalent to Tylenol.
“We do a lot of natural births in the United States but we manage them differently because we have the technology to do so,” Lindberg added.
With technology in the United States, providers can continue monitoring mom and baby throughout the process and, if needed, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is available for additional care.
In Ghana, that technology isn’t available everywhere and neither is the support staff. Midwives don’t always have the same data to rely on when needed to make quick, life-saving decisions. Lindberg said often times in labor and delivery, it is mom and midwife.
“However, I was witness to their phenomenal care with the little resources they do have and it was an absolute privilege to be a part of it.”
Mentorship across the world
“Our staff there is phenomenal,” she said. “Everybody was so eager to learn from the midwives to the nurses and the nurse aides.”
She was humbled and honored to be the one to provide additional education and skills so that they can better care for their patients.
The setting was personal and intimate so the nurses could get to know one another on a personal level and build a professional relationship that would carry through a year of the program.
“Nobody wants somebody to come into their workplace and tell them what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong and this is how you should be doing things. Nobody wants that,” she explained. “So, it was really important for me to gain the trust of the midwives there because I want this year to be really productive. And if they don’t trust me, then it’s not going to be productive.”
Maternity care is expertise that they were happy to bring to the bedside in Ghana.
“Kami has a very natural gift for listening and providing education in a non-intimidating way. It was very cool to watch,” Bieber said. “She met them where they were at and came into it with the understanding that what works for us in the United States – like pain relief through an epidural – may not even be an option in Ghana. She made those connections immediately.”
Based on feedback so far, Lindberg is happy to hear the midwives had very good things to say about working with her.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished that very big milestone and they trust me enough that I will help them throughout the rest of the year.”
The next phase of the Global Nurse Mentor Program is to discuss education needs she identified in Ghana.
“Now that (Lindberg) has a firsthand understanding of the workflows and processes, she will be able to provide education that is more applicable and relatable for our Ghanaian midwives,” Bieber explained.
“In addition to Kami’s focus on maternity, we have another Global Nurse Mentor who will be focused on providing clinical education for our Ghanaian nursing staff around the core foundations of primary care. Her trip will be later on in the year to conduct a skills fair for our nursing staff in each of our sites.”
Encouraging nurses to apply
Lindberg said this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and would strongly encourage other nurses to look into it.
“The knowledge (nurses) possess is helpful to other people regardless of where it is,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and continuing to help where I can.”
Bieber admits it is rewarding and also challenging – in all of the best ways.
“It is always pushing ourselves and teams to think outside the box and to think bigger,” Bieber added. “To have the opportunity to tap into the nursing expertise that Sanford Health has within its organization has been a true honor as I get to know each of these mentors personally. The impact that each of them are having within our partner organizations is being felt professionally and clinically and it’s only the beginning!”
The next round of applications open in August, and the mentors for 2023 will be announced before the end of the year.
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