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Tonga 2011



The island nation of Tonga is composed of 176 islands, 36 of which are inhabited. The capitol of Tonga, Nuku'Alofa, is on the island of Tongatapu. Health care for all of Tonga is provided through the Ministry of Health. While in Tonga, students visited two of the islands, Vava'u and Tongatapu. They spent time at two hospitals, Prince Ngu Hospital in Nieafu, Vava'u, and Viaola Hospital in Nuku'Alofa, Tongatapu.

In Tonga,
nurses care for people "from womb to tomb"--caring for people before they are born, until after they die. Students were able to help with nursing care through the whole spectrum. In Vava'u, this meant working with community nurses in the antenatal clinic, supporting mothers through childbirth in the hospital, and going out with the community nurses to weigh and measure babies and other health care services such as education and immunizations.

Students helped care for sick people in the hospital--stonefish injuries, diabetic ulcers, abdominal pain, renal failure--whatever patient was admitted to the small 30 bed hospital. They also worked in a variety of the clinics, including antenatal, medical, ambulatory and dental clinics. The student working in the dental clinic also went with the visiting hygienist from Japan to teach oral hygiene to students in the schools. Students also got to witness nursing care for those who had died, including the careful washing and dressing of the body. Funerals are very important in Tonga and the dress for a funeral for both the living and the dead has a lot of importance.

While there, students got very close to the nurses and community in Vava'u. The island is small, and a group of white nurses in light blue shirts and navy skirts really stands out. Students would see patients from the hospital, clinics or community in the markets, at church or on the street. One Saturday they held a blood pressure and glucose screening at the market. The nurses from the hospital said they would provide tables for testing, but they provided much more support. Four to five nurses where there the whole morning, recording each result and scheduling appointments for those who needed additional screening. Entertainment also came, with Tongan dancers dancing right in front of the screening area. Although the noise made it hard to hear, the support and attention that the dancers brought was greatly appreciated.


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