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St. Luke’s Nurse Trains Nurses in Africa

Kau Alpha RN

Kau Alpha, RN, traveled to Liberia in March as a volunteer with the York-based Nurse2Nurse education organization. The group spent a week providing refresher training to Liberian nurses in the healthcare basics and donating much-needed equipment that will help them take care of patients in the country’s struggling health care system.

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Kau (pronounced Ko) Alpha, RN, left her homeland of Liberia, West Africa, in the late 1980s to escape poverty and the violence of civil war, which plagued the country for years.

But her heart never left.

Kau Alpha RN

St. Luke’s clinical documentation specialist Kau Alpha, RN, speaks to a group of Liberian nurses in the capital, Monrovia, during a refresher program in which she volunteered in March. (Contributed photo)

The clinical documentation specialist with St. Luke’s returned to Liberia in March as a volunteer with the Nurse2Nurse education organization, based out of York, Pa., and comprising Liberian expats, all of whom are nurses or nurse practitioners. The group spent the week providing refresher training to nurses in the healthcare basics and donating much-needed equipment that will help them take care of patients in the struggling Liberian health care system.

“They’ve suffered so much,” said Alpha, of Forks Township, who has been employed at St. Luke’s University Health Network since 2003.

For a week, the 18 RNs from Nurse2Nurse taught a competency-based program for the Liberia Ministry of Health in the country’s capital, Monrovia. They helped the local nurses brush up on their clinical skills, focusing on a variety of topics, including CPR, blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring, infectious disease prevention, stroke and heart attack diagnosis and treatment, blood transfusions, foley catheter care, behavioral health and stroke. Each day, 50 nurses who had traveled from hospitals throughout the country participated in the refresher sessions. Alpha taught modern documentation practices, which, she noted, are critical to quality patient care but often severely lacking in Liberian hospitals.

“If something isn’t documented on the patient’s chart, that means it never happened,” she said, adding that it’s required for continuity of care as well as to obtain reimbursement from the Liberian government, which operates and finances the health care system there.

When the nurses completed this training, they each received a certificate and an assessment kit that contained a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, glucose meter, CPR mask and thermometer.

“They’re lacking basic equipment for providing patient care,” Alpha explained.

This wasn’t her first return trip to her birthplace. She has gone there every few years to see family still living in a rural town outside the capital city of Monrovia. And each time, Alpha has been shocked to see the state of the country’s healthcare system, which has been negatively impacted by widespread poverty, political unrest and disease. The most recent devastation was caused by a 2014 Ebola virus outbreak which took the lives of thousands of citizens and healthcare workers.

“They had no PPE or knowledge of how to avoid or treat the virus,” Alpha said.

Today, the country is rebounding slowly, but still desperate for medical materials and expertise.

“There are bad outcomes, high mortality in hospitals and villages, and morale is low,” said Alpha, who graduated from nursing school in New Jersey in 2000.

Making the teaching trip back to her country of origin this spring fulfilled her heart’s desire to help fellow nurses; a dream she has had each time she leaves Liberia after a visit with her family. She hopes to return next year with Nurse2Nurse because the need for her clinical and coding skills is critical to improving the country’s health.

“It was a privilege for me to go over and help,” she said. “I always wanted to do something for Liberia or any other country in need.”

The Nurse2Nurse organization holds various fundraising efforts throughout the year to help obtain the money to purchase the medical instruments and pay for travel expenses.

To make a donation or learn more about the organization, visit

This community health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.


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