This story originally appeared on Touch Foundation’s news blog.
Five billion people live without access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care. These operating room services are crucial to treating people with cardiovascular conditions, bone fractures, pregnancy complications, and many other health issues. If these services are inaccessible it can lead to an avoidable disability or premature death. This situation is far too common in Tanzania where surgical and anesthesia care is lacking and the country is facing a large shortage of health workers with the needed skills.
Allan Joel is an ambitious 29-year-old nurse anesthetist trained to meet all of a patient’s anesthesia needs before, during and after surgery or the delivery of a baby. Allan developed a passion for medicine in 1989, the year his father was diagnosed with diabetes. He witnessed his father suffer from inadequate medical care and decided at a young age to pursue nursing so that he could help his father and others in need. After graduating from nursing school, he applied for a nurse midwifery position at Sengerema Hospital, a 325-bed rural hospital serving 800,000 Tanzanians. Limited funding and resources at the hospital prevented Allan from getting a position and forced him to reconsider his career.
Touch Foundation accepted Allan Joel’s application to work as a medical scribe aiding the Treat & Train program*. While Allan worked as a medical scribe, he was able to spend all of his free time volunteering in the ICU and operating theaters at Sengerema Hospital. In the ICU and operating theaters, Allan was exposed to anesthesiology and realized the impact he could have on patients’ lives in this field. Inspired to learn the skills necessary to provide life support in a safe surgical environment, Allan applied for a one-year nurse anesthetist certification at Bugando Medical Centre. With the help of a Touch-funded grant, he graduated in September 2016 and promptly returned to Sengerema Hospital to begin working in the operating room.
Mortality and morbidity related to anesthesia and surgery are all too common in Tanzania. We recognize the importance of a safe and sterile surgical environment to protect everyone, including patients, health workers and students, from infection, injury, and other harm. Touch, together with hardworking individuals like Allan Joel, is working to improve access to safe surgical care and save lives at Sengerema Hospital and our other partner health facilities.
With Touch’s help, Allan was able to start a career in the field of anesthesiology. Although Allan’s work comes with many challenges, including working with only a limited number of trained specialists and equipment, his dynamic drive to find solutions has made him an integral part of the hospital. He has already devoted seven years of his life to improving the care of patients and aims to return to school next year to qualify as an Assistant Anesthesiologist. Touch is proud to support the ambition of young health workers and improve the lives of Tanzanians by providing greater access to quality skilled providers and safe surgical care.
*The Treat & Train Program is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Vitol Foundation, ELMA Foundation, and other partners to improve the education of health students and extend access to health services in Tanzania. Core to Treat & Train is the facilitation of external clinical rotations by nurses, medical doctors, and other health students from the main urban campus to rural health facilities. These rotations provide students with practical experience delivering care to patients in small groups under the supervision of faculty and staff. Touch Foundation develops the Treat & Train Network of healthcare and educational institutions so that scarce resources are shared and the entire health system is strengthened.