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Headline: Region nurse practitioner heading to GhanaRegion news
Region nurse practitioner heading to Ghana
Donna Alden-Bugden and daughter Olivia.
By Holly Moncrieff Photography by Marianne Helm Sept/Oct 2017
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A strong desire to make a difference in the world has resulted in the adventure of a lifetime for a Winnipeg nurse practitioner.

Donna Alden-Bugden, a nurse practitioner at the McGregor QuickCare Clinic, will be heading off to Ghana next month to work at a travelling clinic in that West African country.

Alden-Bugden, who will be based in Ghana's Dogbekope village, is taking along one of her two teenage daughters - Olivia, 13.

"It will be educational for Olivia, plus she wants to blog and journal about it," she says, adding that Olivia will also help out by registering patients and doing other jobs as needed.

The nurse practitioner has been interested in international nursing missions for years. In 1993, Alden-Bugden was the co-ordinator of a project in Guyana, South America. The milk-and-rice program for pregnant mothers monitored the weight gain of infants to see if adding rice to the babies' diets had a positive effect.

"I want to do something for someone else. I want to feel like I've done something important to help people before I retire or die," says Alden-Bugden, adding that she's always loved the idea of going to Africa. "Canadians have so much access to health care, even though they don't always choose to access it. I want to help people who don't have the same access."

She was browsing nursing missions online through the American job site www.hirenurses.com when she discovered the Ghanaian project.

"The site mentioned several different areas around the world where you can do nursing missions," says Alden-Bugden. "There are projects like this dealing with all aspects of patient health, from birth to death. This visit will focus on women's health."

Her mission is a collaboration between Healthy Villages, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports health initiatives in impoverished villages in West Africa, and Show Me Your Stethoscope, a non-profit organization that boasts the largest active online nursing community in the world, with over 650,000 members.

Alden-Bugden will be the first Canadian ever to take part in the Ghanaian mission, and she and her daughter will be the only Canadians making the trip.

"Both organizations are looking for more people who are interested in going from Canada," she says. "Dogbekope is a fairly poor community. They really have no access to health care except for this group, which comes out three times a year. They have a hospital, but it's not fully staffed."

During the three weeks, she'll be helping to run a travelling clinic, which will be set up in Dogbekope and nearby villages.

Donna Alden-Bugden
Donna Alden-Bugden will focus on
women's health while in Africa.

"Sometimes we'll use existing buildings, and other times we'll use tents. The work we'll be doing is similar to what we'd do in a walk-in or urgent-care clinic. We'll be treating infections, changing dressings, treating people for longer-term problems like malaria and cholera. We'll have an infectious disease specialist on site, and be able to do casts," she says. "I'll be assessing and treating them and helping with triage. We won't turn anyone away, but we'll help the most urgent cases first. If there's anything really serious, we'll have to bus the patient to Accra, the capital of Ghana."

During previous missions, nurses have treated a wide range of conditions, including skin infections, respiratory infections, wounds, minor aches and pains, sexually transmitted infections, and many cases of malaria. They also saw many people with undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes.

Alden-Bugden and her colleagues are expecting to assess and treat between 200 and 300 people each day, based on previous clinics.

"I've wanted to do something like this for a long time. The Ghanaian people are very friendly. I'm looking forward to it," she says, adding that she's spent time with the local Ghanaian community in preparation for her mission. "Nurses are capable of doing a lot more than people think. They do assess patients and work to a full scope of care."

Many of the patients Alden-Bugden will see will have traveled from surrounding communities, often from considerable distances. Once the three-week clinic is over, the people of Dogbekope and its nearby villages will be without non-urgent medical care until the next mission.

There are three different nursing missions of this kind held in Dogbekope each year. Each one is three weeks long.

"There are doctors in the community who work in the hospital, but they're there for severe concerns, acute cases. They're not like family doctors. The hospital is for emergency care only. The people would have to go to other communities for less-urgent care," says Alden-Bugden.

The hope is to eventually staff a clinic in the community year-round. There are plans in the making to construct a new permanent clinic in the community.

Each nurse participating in the mission is required to pay $2,000, which covers lodging, food, and transportation. Additional expenses include round-trip airfare, passport fees, the visa to Ghana, a yellow fever vaccine (required for entry into Ghana), malaria preventative, other vaccines or travel medications, and personal expenditures.

Alden-Bugden is hosting a fundraiser on September 30th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Tijuana Yacht Club to raise money for medications, medical supplies, medical equipment and airfare. She's planning to use her daughter's luggage allowance to bring over as many supplies as possible.

The Ghana Africa Medical Mission Fundraiser Social 2017 includes a steak, chicken, or vegetarian kebab dinner and a raffle. Alden-Bugden will show a power-point presentation about her trip and discuss options for volunteering overseas with similar projects. She is willing to answer questions and connect anyone interested with additional resources.

Tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased by texting or calling Alden-Bugden at 204-770-2977, or emailing her at drdonna@npcanada.ca. Anyone interested in volunteering for a similar nursing mission is encouraged to get in touch with her as well.

For more information about the missions, visit:

www.smysofficial.com/advocacy/missions/

healthyvillages.weebly.com

Holly Moncrieff is a Winnipeg writer.