“I Wish To Upgrade Myself”

July 23, 2015
SRT teammate JV Alencar (l) and Ethan with Francisca Wobil, a nurse anesthetist at South Suntweresu hospital in Kumasi, enjoying some down time after work at Rattray Park.

By Ethan Levine

In our SRT program, we’re working with nurse anesthetists in Ghana who are in an executive-style degree-based distance learning program. Basically this means they’re seeking a BSc in nurse anesthesia, whereas prior to this they only had an advanced diploma in nurse anesthesia. 

The difference between the two is more or less that the degree is much more comprehensive in nurse anesthesia in that it teaches them many new techniques and skills, and that it holds more weight.

Part of our work involves giving surveys not only to the students but also their colleagues, administrators and even family members. One of the things we ask about is their reasons for participating in the program (to the students) or reasons for wanting to participate in a similar distance-learning program (to the colleagues and administrators). 

Almost always we have received a response along the lines of “I wish to upgrade myself” from whomever we asked about the reasoning for pursuing further education, or the desire to do so. 

This is a phrase that I haven’t really heard before. It is clear what it means, though, and it also demonstrates how these people view themselves as something worth investing in.

It has been so fascinating to hear that so many people aren’t content with whatever their previous schooling may have been, and that they’re constantly trying to learn more. Even though all of these people are already well trained and have good jobs, they wish to pursue more, and become ever better trained and more knowledgeable. 

It really seems that the people we’ve met in the healthcare field here have a great sense of responsibility towards themselves and their communities. Especially because healthcare workers may be scarce, those who are there to serve their communities want to be able to do it in the best way possible, which means constantly learning and furthering one’s education whenever possible.  

Other than for personal/professional development, there are other reasons that so many people wish to upgrade themselves. One of the positive impacts we’ve seen from the program we’re studying is that these nurse anesthetists teach their co-workers some of the techniques and skills they have learned. There’s an apparent cascading effect that further education has on the surrounding healthcare workers, and hopefully this could be multiplied when more people choose to upgrade themselves.

This phrase—““I wish to upgrade myself”—has stuck with me not only because of its newness or how many people have said it, but because of how telling it is of the mindset of so many people here. I wouldn’t have expected to see so many people who are already in under-staffed, heavy demanding jobs to be willing to take on an extra challenge that is advancing their education. 

Yet almost all of them describe it as a necessity to both themselves and their patients. It seems only fitting though that those who are already doing so much to improve the health outcomes of their communities would want to be able to do even more.