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SLUHN Nurse Trains Nurses in Africa
June 13, 2024

St. Luke's clinical documentation specialist Kau Alpha, RN, speaks to a group of Liberian nurses in the capital, Monrovia, during a refresher program in which she volunteered in March.

Kau (pronounced Ko) Alpha, RN, left her homeland of Liberia (West Africa) in the late 1980s to escape poverty and the violence of civil war, which plagued the country for years.

But her heart never left.

The clinical documentation specialist with St. Luke’s returned to Liberia in March as a volunteer with the Nurse2Nurse education organization, based out of York, Pa., and comprising Liberian expats, all of them nurses or nurse practitioners. They spent the week providing refresher training to nurses in the healthcare basics and donating much-needed equipment that will help the nurses take care of patients in the struggling health system there.

“They’ve suffered so much,” said Alpha, of Forks Township, who has been employed at St. Luke’s since 2003.

For a week, the 18 RNs from Nurse2Nurse taught a competency-based program for the Liberia Ministry of Health in the country’s capital, Monrovia. They helped the local nurses brush up on their clinical skills, focusing on a variety of topics: CPR, blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring, infectious disease prevention, stroke and heart attack diagnosis and treatment, blood transfusions, foley catheter care, behavioral health, stroke. Each day, 50 nurses, who traveled from hospitals throughout the country, participated in the refresher sessions. Alpha taught modern documentation practices, which, she noted, are severely lacking, though critical to quality patient care.

“If something isn’t documented on the patient’s chart, that means it never happened,” she said, adding that it’s required for continuity of care as well as to obtain reimbursement from the Liberian government, which operates and finances the health system there.

When the nurses completed this training, they each received a certificate and an assessment kit that contained a BP cuff, stethoscope, glucose meter, CPR mask and thermometer.

“They’re lacking basic equipment for providing patient care,” Alpha explained.

This wasn’t her first return trip to her birthplace; she has gone there every few years to see family still living in a rural town outside of Monrovia. And each time, Alpha was shocked to see how the healthcare system was in a shambles, a byproduct of the poverty, political unrest and disease that have plagued her native country for years. The most recent devastating scourge was the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which took the lives of thousands of citizens and healthcare workers.

“They had no PPE or knowledge of how to avoid or treat the virus,” Alpha said. 

Today, the country is rebounding slowly but still desperate for medical materials and expertise.

“There are bad outcomes, high mortality in hospitals and villages, and morale is low,” said Alpha, who graduated from nursing school in New Jersey in 2000.

Making the teaching trip back to her country of origin this spring fulfilled her heart’s desire to help fellow nurses, a dream she has had each time she would leave Liberia after a visit with her family.  She hopes to return next year with Nurse2Nurse, because the need for her clinical and coding skills is critical to improving the country’s health.

“It was a privilege for me to go over and help,” she says.  “I always wanted to do something for Liberia or any other country in need.”

The Nurse2Nurse organization holds various fundraising efforts throughout the year to help obtain the money to purchase the medical instruments and pay for travel expenses.

To make a donation, or learn more about the organization, visit nurse2nurse.org.