Kathryn Skogen ’13 spent a month studying health care in rural Tanzania. The experience led to a research project that she presented at an international nursing conference.
As a nursing student in Tanzania, Kathryn Skogen ’13 loved visiting the large hospital room set aside for mothers waiting to go into labor.
The women, most of who arrived before their delivery date because of the distance they had to travel, giggled and shared stories. Staff called it “the happy room.”
Skogen saw it as an opportunity for education.
She was struck by how little information was shared with the women – information that could lead to better health for moms and babies.
“They were a captive audience,” she says.
Her observations led to a research project, which led to an invitation to present at the International Public Health Nursing Conference in Galway, Ireland.
For her project, Skogen adapted a faith-based health program for expectant mothers in rural Tanzania.
The program, Faithfully Fit Forever, was designed in Fargo, N.D., to bring health education and activities to the elderly within a faith setting.
Skogen and her Concordia classmates adapted the program for children in Tanzania and led several classroom presentations while studying there in May 2012.
Using it to share information with expectant mothers was another step.
“It’s really a great way to provide prenatal care while building trust between the women and healthcare providers,” Skogen says. “Many hospitals in Tanzania have a connection to a church, so the faith component is also appropriate.”
It also builds on a lesson she learned as a student in Tanzania.
One day while doing rounds in the happy room, the hospital’s medical director asked the Concordia students why medical staff visited the women daily. The nursing students quickly responded: to learn whether the mothers were in labor and, if so, if they were in pain.
No, the director said. The primary reason he visited was to form a relationship with the soon-to-be mothers.
“To him, the most important part of health care was to first form a relationship with the people you care for,” Skogen says. “It reminded me to take it slow, to build trust.”
It’s a lesson she’ll take with her to her first job as a float nurse at Essentia Hospital in Fargo. And a lesson that informed her project, now shared with nurses around the world.