Since stepping foot off the plane in Ghana we have been bombarded with examples of how you use what you’ve got to survive. From the people “hawking” (selling goods) in the streets with baskets on their heads—near the “No Hawking” signs—to the nurses in the hospital, people are extremely inventive.
After starting in the hospital, we became well aware of how amazing the critical thinking skills of the nurses are. Due to the lack of available resources in the hospital, treatment must often be rendered without optimal equipment and resources (Matthews & Briggs, 2011). After working in Canadian hospitals we were all a little shocked when the lack of supplies altered how a patient was cared for. We quickly learned that every needle to cotton ball was precious and we needed to be smart with the supplies we used. Not only did we not have every resource in abundance as we have been so privileged to in Canada, but we saw how much could be done with the things that are available. Not everything has only one use. When you shift from a place that is full of resources to one that is not, you really learn how to be resourceful. We have seen glove rims and IV tubing used as a tourniquets (we brought quite a few tourniquet donations for them though!). Splints for IV sites in neonates and fractures are often made from cardboard and gauze and tape. Pure honey is often used on wounds as a bactericidal (some of us have seen honey based medication products used in Canada, but not like here). Induced hyperthermia is a common treatment for term infants that is used to prevent brain injury related to hypoxic episodes, however since the cooling blankets and technology recommended for use is not available, ice is used in it’s place. Tape (or plaster as they call it here) is used to label all lab samples and patients items. The list goes on and on in the hospital and we have been not only astounded by the creative measures taken by the nurses and medical staff, but we are also so grateful for what we left behind in Canada and are developing our own critical thinking even further.
The innovative measures don’t stop in the hospital! They’re scattered throughout Ghanaian life and culture. Driving down the road you will be sure to see an array of examples of resourcefulness. There are always plenty of people selling goods in baskets balanced on their heads; this allows them to use both hands in order to collect money and bargain with people in the vehicles. You will see endless amounts of Ghanaian cloth! The beautiful fabric is everywhere, and just one piece of fabric has endless uses. Uses include carrying your baby on your back (hands free!), as sheets in the hospital, as a baby blanket for your newborn, as a dress, as a head dress to protect you from the hot sun, and even acting as a shield for a woman who may have to urinate when no bathroom is available. There is no loss of creativity, and we are all slowly becoming more resourceful. We all buy balls of dough off the street in the mornings; we bring our own sugar, transforming them into Tim Horton’s “old fashion” style doughnuts—our very own Ghanaian style drive thru!
Thanks for reading!
Matthews, J. J., & Briggs, D. D. (2011). A student’s experience of nursing care in a Ghanaian hospital. Nursing Standard, 26(4), 42-46.