J-Term as a nursing assistant in Tanzania

Jillian Jefferson ’13 spent January Term 2013 gaining real-world experiences in a very hands-on way as she assisted in a maternity ward in a hospital in Tanzania. Jefferson helped women during labor and monitored and tended to premature and sick infants. She often had to step in while in the delivery ward. “I would walk around the room comforting the women in labor,” Jefferson says. “There were several times when I found a baby crowning, and before I could call the midwife or even put on gloves, the baby would be delivered.”

A student in the nursing program at Luther College, Jefferson was born and raised in Decorah and decided at a young age that Luther was where she belonged. Jefferson wanted to pursue her passion for nursing and helping others while in school. Volunteering as a nursing assistant in Tanzania was a way to do that.

She was inspired to pursue her dream of volunteering abroad after reading a book for Paideia II book, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof. The book focuses on the oppression of women and girls in developing countries, encouraging readers to strive to create a better life for them.

Jefferson began to research volunteer organizations and was accepted to travel as a nursing assistant with the Projects Abroad organization to Tanzania. She was stationed at the Mount Meru hospital in Arusha, Tanzania, where she helped in areas such as the neonatal, pediatric, and the labor and delivery units. Her responsibilities included caring for premature infants, assisting nurses with cleaning, charting, and medications, and aiding in the labor and delivery of many babies.

Being a nursing assistant also allowed Jefferson to interact with nurses and fellow volunteers from various parts of the world, from whom she learned new skills and techniques.

Jefferson also found a way to connect with patients. “My relationships with patients were often difficult due to language barriers; however, I was able to develop relationships through providing comfort and showing I was there for them and their children,” Jefferson said.

Helping to deliver babies has fueled her desire to specialize her nursing career to women and infant care. “I felt very privileged to be able to help someone through such a special moment in her life and it was an amazing sight to see some extremely premature infants thrive with no advanced medical interventions,” Jefferson said. She credits Luther and its nursing department for the role it played in her college career. “The nursing department is very supportive and assists in any way they can to make my goals happen,” Jefferson said.

After graduation, Jefferson will work toward a nurse-midwife certification.