Education and Empowerment

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To me, this picture expresses a perfect moment. It was the moment when this nurse realized he can clean his instruments to a higher standard, and against all odds, it is possible.

So often, we forget that knowledge is power. If we’re always taught to follow blindly with what we’re told, and not encouraged to think outside the box, why would we ever change the way we’ve always done things? I’m sure all of us can relate this this. We’ve all had that job where we were basically told to just do what we’re told.

During my management studies, the term ‘growth-mindset’ came up again and again in discussion. The term describes an optimistic and encouraging way of thinking that encourages the development of basic skills and knowledge through hard work, dedication, and the belief that growth is possible. Quite simply, if you think you can do something, you are far more likely to take steps to succeed.  Whereas, if you (or someone else) tells you that you can’t do something, then you’re far less likely to achieve those very same goals. Think back to when you were faced with a difficult task. Sitting in the corner and complaining about the situation probably did you little good. But taking a deep breath, telling yourself you can handle this, and planning a course of action to tackle the situation probably turned out quite well! Perhaps even, at the end of the day, the task may have ended up being far less daunting than you originally thought. In my personal experience, a growth-mindset is not only empowering – it works!

This week, I assisted SPECT with delivering Sterile Processing Fundamentals Training in Bukoba. Thirty-eight nurses from across the Kagera region of Tanzania attended the five-day training course that was grounded in theory, supplemented with demonstrations and in-class activities. As someone who isn’t educated in the health care industry, my role was to support the educators by completing daily administrative and financial tasks, while assisting with the general organization and coordination of the event. Working behind the scenes allowed me the perfect opportunity to really observe the course, educators, and participants in a truly authentic and unedited manner.

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This brings me to this perfect moment. It’s rare to witness the exact moment someone feels empowered. The moment their perspective changes and you can see their entire outlook transform. I suppose educators often witness these moments, but this was the first time I was fortunate enough to observe such a perfect moment in real life.

Christina had just completed a demonstration on proper cleaning techniques when Cletus volunteered to replicate the demonstration. After explaining the set up, he grabbed a needle holder from the surgical set (pictured on the left) and began cleaning it. It’s certainly worthy to note that this particular surgical set came directly from a local hospital’s sterilization department and had already been cleaned, sterilized, and approved for surgical use. Quickly, Cletus set to work following a newly introduced 3-step cleaning process, complete with proper tools and techniques. Every swipe of his brush removed more and more debris, and little by little the instrument began to shine like new. As the enthusiasm in the room grew, he completed his 3-step process and proudly held up the finished product (as pictured on the right). Sitting silently away from the crowd, it was easy to see the light in Cletus’ eyes grow and the smile escape from deep in his soul. He took an instrument that he’d used so many times before and improved it to a standard he had never considered possible three days ago. As the rest of the participants cheered, his smile grew, his pride in his work grew, and undoubtedly, his confidence in his professional abilities grew.

As a strong advocate for education in all its many different forms, I’ll leave you with this quote from a man that is wiser than I could ever hope to be.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Renata Mrema                                                                                                                             SPECT Volunteer