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Emergency nursing in Sierra Leone

One of the reasons Kimberlee Gunn chose to study her MSc in Global Health at King’s was the international partnerships with hospitals, universities and government ministries of health, under the King’s Global Health Partnerships programme. It highlighted to her an opportunity to be practically involved alongside mainstream teaching, and offered a great chance for hands-on experience when it came to her Capstone Project.

In this article Kim reflects on her research work that she carried out in Sierra Leone as part of her degree:

Patient experiences of triage in Sierra Leone

I carried out my research at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, looking at patient experiences of triage – the prioritisation and allocation of treatment according to the urgency of patients’ need for care. I was in Freetown for eight weeks conducting my research which involved patient interviews and observations of triage. For this I was lucky enough to be working with the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership (KSLP), who have developed a strong partnership with Connaught Hospital. 

Exciting new challenges

My background is emergency nursing, so I had a solid understanding of triage. However, having never been to Sierra Leone, worked in a developing context or conducted a research project before, this was a steep learning curve for me. There were many challenges along the way, working with a vulnerable population and working in another language and culture particularly. I was lucky to have a local research assistant who taught me so much of the culture. Triage was only introduced at Connaught Hospital in 2014 and since then has seen many changes. Sierra Leone itself is a low resource setting with severe skilled workforce shortages, exacerbated by the recent Ebola crisis.

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Opportunities for impact

Overall, patients had a positive perception of triage, they appreciated clear communication and being treated kindly. Those who had experienced coming to Connaught Hospital prior to the implementation of triage, particularly, saw a great improvement in the service. Given my own background, my research took on a nursing focus. In observing triage from a nursing perspective, I found the nursing staff had some gaps in their clinical knowledge. I was given the opportunity to provide some training for nursing staff on triage with the KSLP nursing volunteer. Working with KSLP and senior nursing staff ensured sustainability of this initiative, where this training can be ongoing and provided to new nurses as they rotate to triage.

Working with KSLP in Sierra Leone I was able to learn from like-minded and passionate professionals. This offered me invaluable experience that will help me embark on my future career in Global Health. – Kimberlee Gunn

Find out more about the Global Health courses available at the King’s Centre for Global Health and Health Partnerships

Find out more about volunteering opportunities with King’s Global Health Partnerships.

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