Alumni Profile/Betsy Perky, MSN ’04, VUSN Alumni Association President

With the support of the School of Nursing, I recently traveled to Botswana to assist in a pre-opening nurse training program for a new hospital being built on the outskirts of the capital city of Gaborone. Bokamoso Private Hospital is a private, not-for-profit facility owned by the Bokamoso Private Trust that was established by two of the country’s health schemes, the Botswana Public Officers Medical Aid Scheme and PULA Medical Aid Fund. The word “bokamoso” translates from Setswana to mean “the future.” For the people of the region, it is the future of good health. It is a state-of-the-art health care facility that, among other things, offers specialty services people previously had to travel long distances to find, making this level of care difficult to obtain and, in the process, taking them away from their families and their support system.

Nursing in Southern Africa faces many of the same challenges we see ourselves facing here today. There is a shortage of licensed staff as well as nurse educators. For the nurses in the area, Bokamoso is the promise of a more advanced nursing care model. By raising the bar on the standard of health care in the area, the hospital was also offering the opportunity for advancement of nursing skills and knowledge. Prior to the scheduled opening of the hospital, I, along with three other nurses from the United States, worked with 30 of the nurses on three main specialty areas: accident and emergency, critical care and pediatrics. We lectured on various subjects of importance and set up simulation labs to teach new skills and reinforce the safe practices of old ones.

Working with the local nurses was wonderful. They were very receptive and eager to learn. Some of the nurses did not have textbooks or stethoscopes of their own. For many of them we were able to help supply those things. Undoubtedly, we gained quite a bit of knowledge from the locally-sourced nurses and the people who we encountered in our short time there, and we were not without our share of exciting moments either: a fender-bender, a lock-in at the training center, and close encounters with lions, elephants, and hippos, among other animals.

It was the trip of a lifetime. It was much more than just providing a service and leaving. It was the sharing of knowledge, skills, and supporting the hope of something better. Regardless of where or who you are in this world, we should all have easy access to quality health care. We are, in truth, one world and we must work together, learn from each other, and help one another. I am so very thankful for this opportunity and for all those who help support it.

Ke a leboga. Tsamaya sentle.
(Thank you and go well.)