Health

February 2, 2018 – Volunteer blog from Malawi

Celebrating a faculty member’s birthday.

Our second week in Malawi has been characterized by a hands-on approach to the ongoing research capacity building we are doing together here at Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN). Monday and Tuesday, we all rolled up our sleeves and worked through two days of research workshops with the faculty, some students and other invited stakeholders. Dr. Gertrude Mwalabu and a few of our other champions helped Dr. Pammla Petrucka and I lead the workshops using two research topics and their respective research teams as examples.

The first research team will carry out a program of research designed to better understand women’s community-based experiences in the year following surgical repair of an obstetrical fistula. The second team, led by Dr. Mwalabu, will carry out a program designed to understand the community-based experiences of young women and men (aged 19-24), as they work to meet their continuing health challenges related to HIV and HIV treatments, while also meeting the unique developmental challenges of young adulthood.

Research Interactive Workshop.

As the week progressed, Pammla and I split up, and each of us worked primarily with one of the research teams. KCN’s librarians, Kondwani and Patrick, supported the teams, and together each team worked to refine their research goals, objectives and research questions, while also identifying requirements for scoping reviews of the relevant published literature. As it turned out, each team identified two scoping reviews and two research studies that they planned to conduct together.

KCN librarian leads workshop group on through application of online query and use of search terms.

Using the grant format of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the teams developed the four grant outlines. Working together they also developed the on-line queries for the scoping reviews. All participants were actively engaged in decision-making regarding search terms and search parameters. And, as the on-line results of the queries came in, participants were able to see in real time how decisions regarding their search parameters influenced the quality and manageability of the resulting articles that were retrieved. As we worked through the grant proposals, participants saw how iterative the work was – as we worked back and forth to ensure that the research goals and objectives aligned perfectly with the research questions – and vice versa.

At the end of the week, one of the two groups declared its intention to continue work on its scoping reviews independently (i.e., without Pammla and I). The group members felt confident in applying their inclusion and exclusion data retrieval criteria, using the data extraction tool that they had developed. Dr. Petrucka and I are excited to review their progress with them next week.


Martha E. (Beth) Horsburgh, RN, PhD has provided academic nursing and research leadership in three Canadian provinces. Her scholarship is typified by practical community and health system partnerships designed to tackle recurrent health challenges faced by patients, families and communities in Canada and around the world.

Joining the Academics Without Borders family of volunteers has enabled Beth and her colleague Dr. Pammla Petrucka, to work alongside the nursing faculty at Kamazu College of Nursing, University of Malawi, to address local health challenges through sustainable research partnerships.

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January 26, 2018 – Volunteer blog from Malawi

Kamuzu College of Nursing’s Directorate of Nursing and Midwifery with Beth (on the right)

Our first week in Malawi has been very busy, and the Dean of Nursing, Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN), Dr. Gertrude Mwalabu, Dr. Pammla Petrucka and I feel that we have exceeded our expectations and plan of work!

Dean Gertrude and her husband kindly picked us up at the Lilongwe airport and saw that we were settled into our hotel accommodations. After a refreshing night’s sleep we had our first meeting with the Dean and other KCN formal and research leaders. We examined the four research pillars that KCN has identified: vulnerable populations; primary health care in Malawi; quality of care; and health reforms and innovations. Through kind and candid engagement, it was clear that KCN were seeking practical, sustainable assistance to build their research momentum. While some individuals and small groups had experienced success with individual grants and publications, all embraced the idea of working more effectively in research teams.

In this spirit, we worked with 11 of KCN’s Research Champions all day Tuesday. As senior research mentors to junior faculty and students, the champions included those in formal leadership roles and senior faculty members. While our work together included basics related to grantsmanship and publication, we moved beyond these to discuss principles of working effectively in teams; research mentorship; and engagement with knowledge users and policy makers and the patients/clients, families and communities where KCN hoped to impact the quality of care. We also identified opportunities to engage community “traditional leaders” – respected traditional knowledge keepers who play an important role in the health of Malawi communities where 80% of the population lives in the rural area.

Wednesday, the champions came together with junior faculty content experts. Using the grant format of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, we worked together to develop the grant outline using one of KCNs areas of interest – the experience of care of women with obstetric fistulae. By the end of the day, the outline had been completed using two research questions that would permit the champions to divide their efforts and mentor two semi-separate research teams examining different aspects of the same population of interest – thus, taking advantage of the recruitment of one cohort of participants. Practicality, focus, efficiency, and sustainability were our mantra, as we recognized the need to use KCN’s precious research resources wisely! Next week we will be supporting the champions to offer a two-day research workshop to all of the KCN faculty, some graduate students, and community stakeholders.

Beth with the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi

For the remainder of our first week we worked with Dean Gertrude to further develop her already impressive stakeholder network. We listened carefully for stakeholders’ health knowledge priorities, while seeking and affirming their willingness to engage with and support KCN’s developing scholarship. We met with the National Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services and her leadership team, the Registrar and CEO of the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi and her team, and the three Directors of National Commission for Science and Technology. All are willing to support KCN’s developing research programs and they confirmed the importance of KCN’s four research pillars and team-based research model. Indeed, some of these stakeholders will now be joining us for the two-day training workshop next week!

Week one closed with a tour of the Lighthouse – a patient-centred, one-stop-service for individuals with HIV. With infrastructure support from Germany and operating funding from the Centres for Disease Control in the USA, this amazing facility has provided compassionate, quality care to this vulnerable population since 2001. This dedicated team of health professionals also provides corollary health services, so that almost all of the individual’s health needs can be met in the one location (the centre has adopted ‘one stop shop’ type of delivering health services).


Martha E. (Beth) Horsburgh, RN, PhD has provided academic nursing and research leadership in three Canadian provinces. Her scholarship is typified by practical community and health system partnerships designed to tackle recurrent health challenges faced by patients, families and communities in Canada and around the world.

Joining the Academics Without Borders family of volunteers has enabled Beth and her colleague Dr. Pammla Petrucka, to work alongside the nursing faculty at Kamazu College of Nursing, University of Malawi, to address local health challenges through sustainable research partnerships.

Read more