Preceptorship in Ghana Taught Nursing Alumna the Importance of Cultural Competence

Megan Morison reflects back on her time preceptoring in Ghana and how it shaped her into the RN she is today.

10 January 2020

The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing fourth-year Ghana cohort are soaking up their last few days in Edmonton before they embark on a journey across the world for their clinical placement—the final step for the small group of students before they become graduate nurses. 

Even though the days ahead will be challenging, Megan Morison (BScN ‘14 alumna) promises their time in Ghana will not only be rewarding, but will provide a competitive edge when they return home and begin working as an RN. 

“Going to Ghana for my preceptorship was the most influential experience of my undergraduate degree. Although the scope of practice was different in Ghana, I learned invaluable lessons which I try to incorporate in my practice on a daily basis,” explains Morison, who has worked in acute care and community pediatrics since graduating from the Faculty of Nursing. 

What is it that you love most about nursing?

The role of nurses is so diverse. I currently case manage children with complex medical needs in the community setting. I love that kids are so positive, fun and resilient despite their diagnosis. I enjoy being a case manager and wearing so many different hats. I get to know the clients and their families on a different level than acute care and I’m able to establish a professional relationship and be there for them along their journey. I really enjoy empowering families to become independent and confident in taking care of their child with medical needs.

What inspired you to do your final preceptorship in Ghana? 

Ever since the moment I heard about the opportunity to go to Ghana when I was in first year, I knew it was something that I had to do. I’ve always loved to travel and I think as a nursing student it’s so valuable to have as many different experiences as possible to pull from and incorporate into practice as an RN. My instructor at the time was Dr. Solina Richter who was so amazing and truly made our time in Ghana so incredible. She taught us to roll with the uncertainty and learn from the Ghanians.

Did you find your preceptorship challenging? If so, why? 

It was challenging in different ways than I anticipated. I was placed at the inpatient pediatric unit and I was so lucky that the head pediatrician there included me in his rounds, but he expected me to participate when he would ask questions to his medical students. I bought a few books on tropical diseases and brushed up on medical conditions more common in Ghana that I wasn’t overly familiar, such as Sickle Cell. I studied those books at night because I knew the next day he would put me on the spot.

I also found it very challenging to see the disparity and unfortunately the lack of resources that the hospital had to make due with—but the nurses and doctors were very resourceful; they used the same medical supplies for different purposes so that nothing was wasted. It made me think twice about bringing something into a patient’s room when I worked in acute care in Canada.

When you look back on your three-month stint in Ghana, what memory stands out the most? 

We had an opportunity to meet the King of the Ashanti Region. In the front row were these men dressed in traditional attire wearing animal skins, and this beautiful traditional cloth called Kente cloth. These men were all very serious. I remember being the first in line and having no clue what to do. I got up to the King and bowed. Subsequently, my classmates followed and copied exactly what I did. The men in the front row—who were previously very serious—were laughing hysterically, which prompted us to follow suit. This experience was very humbling and it taught me a lot about cultural competence and embracing people from all around the world who may not know the norms here in Canada.

What words of advice would you give a UAlberta nursing student before they head off to Ghana? 

  1. Keep an open mindset and be open to new experiences, when you first arrive everything will seem so different, but after you’ve been there for a few weeks it will feel like you’ve always been there.
  2. Learn at least 10 common words in Twi and then greet the Ghanaians in their language. Even if you mispronounce something they will appreciate the effort.
  3. Get to know the people there: the nurses, doctors, and other health care professionals. Ask alot of questions. If you are invited for a meal, don’t say no and make sure to eat with your right hand (coming from someone who is left handed, it’s harder than it sounds).
  4. Know what your Ghanaian name is (it’s based on your gender and day of the week you were born on)

What are your plans for the future?

I’m really happy where I’m at for the time being. I was a clinical instructor last year with the FoN which was such an incredible experience so I’m thinking about doing my masters/furthering my education, but we’ll see what the future has in store for me.