Training surgeons and intensive care nurses in Malawi
«If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.»
In April 2022 we, Bernhard and Lydia Widmann, moved to Malawi with our three children. The focus of our project is the training of Malawian surgeons and intensive care nurses.
There are currently an estimate of 40 surgeons working in Malawi with a population of 19 million. A third of the population is living with a condition requiring a surgical intervention. And every fourth death is potentially avoidable through surgery.
Since January 2022, Nkhoma Hospital has been a further training site for PAACS (Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons). This programme combines surgical training with discipleship over the course of 5 years. It has proven to be an effective strategy in addressing the challenge of health worker migration, as PAACS graduates tend to remain in service in Africa.
Bernhard is part of the multicultural team of surgeons who train two new African residents each year.
Training intensive care nurses
In order to provide safe surgical care, a functional intensive care unit (ICU) is indispensable. At Nkhoma Hospital, an intensive care unit has been built and equiped over the past year and saw its first patient in July 2023.
As in most sub-Saharan countries, there is no formal training for ICU nurses in Malawi. Four Malawian nurses have undergone ICU training in Kenya. Lydia is coaching them and carrying out on-the-job training for further nurses.
Who we are
Bernhard Widmann is a general surgeon who worked as a surgical consultant at the Kantonspital St. Gallen in Switzerland before coming to Malawi. He has an MSc in Public Health and is active in research. He grew up in Innsbruck, Austria and always dreamed of being a doctor in a land with no doctors.
Lydia Widmann is an intensive care nurse who worked previously as a trainer of ICU nurses at the Kantonspital St. Gallen. She has an MSc in Clinical Education. She is a U.S. citizen who grew up in Jordan and studied nursing in Austria.
They were married in 2008 and have three children, Finn (5 years), Nathan (4) and Lina (2).
Malawi is considered the third poorest country in the world with a GDP of $565. The majority of the population must survive on less than one dollar a day. With 0.36 doctors per 10,000 population Malawi has the lowest recorded density of physicians aside from Somalia. Surgical and intensive care is one of the country's greatest needs, which is what attracted us to this project.
Malawi is known as the 'warm heart of Africa' due to the friendliness of its people and its political stability. This helped us in the decision to move with 3 small children. The landscape is beautiful with its Savannah, mountains and Lake Malawi. We look forward to getting to know the country and its people!
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Nkhoma Hospital is a 100-year-old mission hospital an hour away from the capital Lilongwe. It employs over 500 hundred Malawians and offers training for nurses and doctors. Further developements are in progress to expand the teaching focus of the hospital. A surgical center including operation theaters, a surgical ward and an intensive care unit are currently being built. The Organisation ActMED has been substantially involved in this project. Though faced with many changes, this hospital shows great potential in serving the people of Malawi.
We have been sent out by Coworkers, a christian organisation partly supported by the German governments' development aid. Coworkers sends professionals worldwide to partner with local churches and organisations. It's primary focus is to equip locals in their profession as well as in their character and faith.
Beginning in January we will be attending preparation courses including tropical medicine, language studies and safety training. We plan on moving to Malawi in April 2022.
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