Karoline Skovsende is a nurse, she grew up in the Danish town of Svendborg and lives in Copenhagen. The past 4 years she worked at the neurological unit at Herlev Hospital in Denmark. Karoline volunteered for 8 weeks at the medical department at Ramallah Government Hospital in Ramallah, Palestine.
“For a long time, I wanted to travel and work somewhere as a nurse. Perhaps it does not sound very safe to say that I am going to Palestine, but I thought about how the conflict here presented a challenge for me and I always wanted to see this place. Palestine is not just a place you go to on a vacation”
“It was hard to prepare for my first meeting with Palestine. It was a bit of a culture shock. The more I experienced and was confronted with the conflict, the more affected I became. Coming from Israel to Palestine, crossing the checkpoints and seeing the wall that runs through the landscape. The more people I met who are living in this conflict and have scars or trauma, the more it dawned on me how little I knew and how little one in Denmark and Europe really get to know about the conflict.”
“I had a good first hand impression of the hospital and was quite surprised at how modern it looked and how structured it was. I was also very surprised at how well trained the staff is, especially the nurses. They often take graduate studies meaning they are trained for four years. Nursing students are taught continuously during internships and it seems to work very well. Especially the nurses’ professional knowledge in nursing and diagnosis is excellent. They spend much time here in Palestine training students in different types of medicine and what the contraindications are.”
“What surprised me the most and was the greatest challenging, is the language. In the beginning of my stay, I thought that perhaps I was going to see some crazy things here; people who got blown up or what not- this is what I imagined. And yes, I have had some patients who was shot, but I was able to deal with it. I thought that the experiences with patients would be the most challenging part, but it turned out that the language barrier was the biggest challenge. All the medical records here are in English, which is good, but there were still many things I had to look up in order to fully understand it. I learned a lot of nursing vocabulary in English by being here. ”
“The medical rounds take two hours here and the chief surgeon and the all junior doctors are present as they check up on the patient. They are quite effective while visiting the patient, a situation I do not experience at home in Denmark. As soon as they have completed their rounds, the nurse writes down the outcomes of the round and order tests that the doctor prescribed.”
“The relatives and patients got very happy if I for example helped changing a diaper, and I had a patient who kept telling me “I love you.” It has been an amazing experience. But I also had the extra time to do it. Being here, I tried to be the one who nursed the patients or held their hand. Despite the fact that it is a public hospital in Palestine, I am pleasantly surprised by how well functioning it is. I think that the situation at a hospital could be much worse everywhere else in the world and that it all comes down to lack of resources”.
“I learned a lot by simply jumping into new things I knew very little about from the beginning. When you are volunteering somewhere and have to work in a completely different culture, I think that you simply have to just seize the unknown.”
“If a nurse is considering becoming a volunteer in Palestine, I recommend learning some useful Arabic words in advance. You should also consider whether you can work without much structure and in a workplace where you have to create a life and a structure for yourself.”
“Palestinians must be the most patient people in the world, and simply getting from one place to another can take time. My patience was put to the test a few times. So ‘thumps up’ for the Palestinians.”