A student placement in Democratic Republic of Congo - Cikwanine Gisele Rwegema

Cikwanine Gisele Rwegema answers some questions about her student elective placement in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Where were you studying when you went on your placement?

I was studying adult nursing at Sheffield Hallam University, and I chose to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo for my elective placement.

What made you choose the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular? Heri Kwetu clinic beds

I chose DRC because I am originally from there and I am thinking about going to do some humanitarian work in the future.

Where did you go?

It was a clinic called "Heri Kwetu Rehabilitation Centre”. They have nurses and doctors, physiotherapy, radiotherapy, and a school for the blind and deaf. It is in Bukavu in South Kivu province. In Swahili ‘heri kwetu’ means ‘it’s better at our place’. We looked after children, babies and adults suffering from many different problems, including birth defects such as malformation of the face, arms or legs; amputations; broken bones, and many other problems. We treated them by giving them massages on the affected areas.

Were you surprised that in the DRC, nurses’ roles involved massage? Was it tiring? What do you think the benefits are?

 I knew that nurses could massage because before I went I was told that they were physio nurses, although I’d never heard of such a thing before. It was very tiring. We were sitting on small mattresses and there was a long queue of patients waiting to be seen. We were working from 7.30am till 13.30. But it was enjoyable because everybody was so friendly and having a laugh. We only had a 30 minute break. The benefits of this type of treatment were that we could communicate with the patients and parents and build positive relationships. At first I did not believe that it could work, but when I saw a little girl who couldn’t walk start walking using a child Zimmer frame, I was amazed.

How did you feel when you saw the little girl walking for the first time?

I was so amazed to see the little girl walking. I felt proud of them. I kept praising the staff for the beautiful job they were doing. I can't explain how I felt that day. I can't even imagine what the parents were feeling.

How long were you there for? Did you feel you could have stayed longer?

I was there for two weeks. Yes, I could have stayed far longer. I enjoyed working there as the staff and patients were all very nice, and keen to learn new things from me. Also I was learning new skills and new techniques.

Can you say a little bit more about the lack of machinery? How did it feel to have to do everything manually?

At first I was nervous because I thought I would never be able to do it. But after two days I realised that it was not that hard. But then I thought that the staff could benefit from having some machinery to make their job easier, less tiring and more enjoyable. They had around 50 patients a day. Some of the patients were coming from 200 miles away, but sometimes could not be treated because there was not time. There were no computers, so the staff spent hours on paper records.

Would you recommend a similar placement to other students?

Yes, definitely. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot during my time there.