“Prior to studying at the School I had quite a lot of experience in tropical nursing. I had worked as an expedition nurse on a number of expeditions as well as in clinics in rural Australia, Malawi and Ghana, therefore the Diploma in Tropical Nursing (DTN) seemed like the logical next step.
The DTN has helped me in three main ways: knowledge, outlook, and people. In my job at Raleigh International I look after all of the medical elements of our overseas expedition programmes. This involves preparing the volunteers for their expedition: which includes writing travel health guidance, giving health education, and medical screening participants. My job also entails being on call to give telephone advise to medics on expedition who are providing medical support to volunteers. I therefore use the knowledge I gained from the DTN on a daily basis – I have to have a working knowledge of health problems encountered in the tropics. Our volunteer medics change every 3 months, which means I am supporting clinicians that are relatively inexperienced in the field. This means I need to keep my knowledge fresh and up to date, and the medical system strong and clear. The DTN helped me develop the skills I need to do that.
The DTN also helped open my eyes to what the role of a nurse can include. I have to do a lot of things that are not traditionally thought of as ‘nursing’. This includes recruitment, system management and logistics. However, I still think of myself as a nurse when I am doing these things as I use my clinical judgment to inform my actions in order to provide care that enables volunteers to improve, maintain or recover health on expedition; to achieve that in such a unique environment, I need to use more skills than those traditional seen as ‘nursing skills’. Meeting the speakers and other students on the course helped me understand that nursing can be more than just at the bedside.
During my time at the School I loved all of the lectures and meeting interesting and like minded people. The relationships I formed at LSHTM have been invaluable to me. I have recuited most of my cohort to volunteer with Raleigh. I have also been lucky to make some wonderful friends who continue to give me great professional and personal support and advice; as a result, I have been able to create a wide network of contacts across the sector, which is valuable in many aspects of my work. My advice to current students would be that you can use your DTN and make a difference in more ways than you think. Raleigh is a great way to get your first experience of working in an austere setting in a relatively safe and supported environment.
As I continue developing my career, I would like to help raise the profile of nurses in expedition and extreme medicine. I would also like to help contribute to the limited evidence base that exists in expedition medicine, in order to drive up standards, as well as be a champion for responsible travel and volunteering and its role in global sustainable development.
Images courtesy of Katie Beck.
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