As my brief time at Kijabe hospital has come to an end, I'm amazed at all that I have been able to experience over the past 4 weeks. I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived, but I found a resourceful medical center in a beautiful rural town, full of hardworking, enthusiastic and selfless individuals, with the primary goal of providing the best possible health care to the people of East Africa. The hospital is short on funding, resources and supplies when compared to American standards, but the incredible work they are able to accomplish with the little that they have is truly remarkable.
Kijabe hospital runs 8 very busy operating rooms, where tireless surgeons, nurses, and anesthetists work endlessly to care for a vast array of patients with very complicated surgical problems. The OR's are staffed by a mix of foreign missionaries and locally trained African surgeons, with a number of surgical residents who are being trained by these individuals to provide high quality surgical care for remote corners of the country. The hospital has an innovative anesthetist-training program where nurses come from all over the country to train in the provision of anesthesia. When they are finished, they are expected to return to their home community and deliver a safe anesthetic – often being the only anesthesia provider in the area.
Much of my work at Kijabe Hospital was in educating and training the group of anesthetists – from giving morning lectures to instructing and supervising in the OR. Every Tuesday and Thursday we held continuing medical education conferences where we would discuss how to manage important medical conditions in patients undergoing anesthesia. Topics included common conditions such as diabetes, renal failure, liver failure, pre-eclampsia, and many others. These lectures were very rewarding in that the anesthetists would quickly and enthusiastically put into practice what they were learning. I was impressed by the deep fund of knowledge that they had obtained through the quality education provided at Kijabe hospital – not only do they work hard, but they also study very hard and are well prepared to care for sick patients.
I also spent time working in the intensive care unit, a five-bed unit reserved for the five sickest patients in the hospital. Most of them had very complicated medical issues and were on circulatory and ventilatory support, and were a challenge to care for. It was a rewarding experience to work with and teach the interns, student anesthetists and nurses in the unit – hopefully they are better prepared to care for critically ill patients.
Kijabe hospital is truly an amazing place. What it lacks in resources it more than makes up for with dedicated, hardworking, charismatic individuals who, despite their own challenges in life, are tirelessly caring for the ill and less fortunate among them. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to spend time with these wonderful people and will never forget my experience. I am a better physician and a better human being for having spent time at Kijabe Hospital.