Development of an Evidence-Based Resource Guide for Nurses on Medical Missions in Developing Countries

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 1:35 PM

Natalie Ann Masco, DNP, RN, FNP-C
Wegmans School of Nursing, St John Fisher College, Rochester, NY

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify the common health conditions seen in developing countries as compared to developed countries.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify evidence based,appropriate treament and nursing care for specific conditions as well as cultural care considerations.

Background: In 2007, an estimated 1.6 million Americans were sent on international short-term medical missions by more than 40,000 sending entities (churches, agencies, schools, etc.) at a cost of three billion dollars (Tazelaar, 2011). Many arguments about the utility and effectiveness of short-term medical missions exist in the literature. While professionals who take part in the trips do so to help others, without proper preparation and education on medical conditions and cultural needs there is a risk for causing more harm than good. “Without training, volunteers will be psychologically and culturally unprepared to work amidst poverty in a developing country.” (United for Sight, n.d.). Efforts must be made to improve the preparation of medical mission volunteers in terms of local diagnoses, treatment options, and cultural issues in order for the care.

Purpose: To identify the healthcare needs of  those who seek health care at short-term medical mission clinics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Methods: A needs assessment was conducted with retrospective chart reviews (N=708) following a short-term medical mission clinic in rural Zambia.

 Results: Many of the health conditions were familiar to western nurses: hypertension, musculoskeletal conditions, gastrointestinal conditions; however, the management of these conditions in a resource-poor area was unfamiliar. Conditions such as HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis, and intestinal worms were unfamiliar to western nurses and therefore they require more educations on these topics. Utilizing this information an evidence-based resource guide, specific to registered nurses practicing in Sub-Saharan Africa was created. In addition, the importance of cultural care and the holistic care needs were identified.

Conclusion: There is a great need to provide adequate preparation and education of registered nurses prior to caring for patients in developing countries. The creation of a evidence based practice resource guide with cultural considerations, is a first step to ensuring quality care is present on medical missions.