AORN Blog - The Periop Life

Periop Nursing in West Africa: Caring for a Community

Periop Nursing in West Africa

December 15, 2017     

This is a post in our series that takes a closer look at what it means to practice perioperative nursing in countries around the world. You’ll see highlights on how perioperative nurses work within different types of health care systems, develop their career trajectory, and face the daily challenges of nurse/life balance.

Recently AORN caught up with Sèdjro Vincent Blaise Kovohouandé, a senior technician in surgery at the Academic Hospital of Suru-Léré in Cotonou in the Republic of Bénin in West Africa. In his role at this hospital with around 200 beds that handles trauma and general surgeries, Kovohouandé serves as manager of the operating theatre. However, the title of manager does little to describe all that he does. In the OR, Kovohouandé prepares the OR for the patient, prepares the patient for the procedure by implementing a protocol to prevent surgical site infection that he developed, and assists the surgeon during surgery.

Outside of the OR, Kovohouandé oversees and educates nurses and staff on sterile processing of surgical instruments. He also educates on important topics such as asepsis and infection prevention. In addition, he runs daily operational activities for surgery and sterile processing, and handles administrative tasks such as analyzing and sharing OR data.

Kovohouandé Tells His Story

On Being Multilingual

The Republic of Bénin is a French-speaking country; however, because Bénin borders Nigeria, an English-speaking country, many patients at our hospital speak English. After observing and conducting research on patient language and communication, I realized the need for my staff members to speak English so I established an English club that meets weekly. I am also in my third year of studying English at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou.

In the hospital I am often solicited by colleagues to translate French and English between health care providers and patients. In addition to French and English, I also speak three local dialects: Tori, Goun, and Fon. Recently I hosted a day of education at the hospital on the importance of English language in the health field. Being able to speak with patients to truly understand their concerns and lessen their fears is so important to their safe care, this is something we continue to advance through ongoing discussion and education.

On Education

To practice perioperative nursing in Bénin, a nurse must first have a baccalaureate degree and then spend three more years studying nursing and training for two to three additional years in the perioperative specialty to become a Senior Technician in Surgery, which is the title used for OR nurse. In my facility, I am the only nurse with this title. Because there is a shortage of operating room nurses in Bénin, our hospital works to train nurses in perioperative specific competencies to fill the gap. I also educate nurses and midwife students coming for practice.

Improving competencies is something we work on daily and it’s not always easy. To ensure my team has the most current evidence-based practices I work hard to participate in international scientific meetings and I conduct my own research to establish patient safety innovations that apply to our specific practice setting.

For example, the protocol I developed for preventing surgical site infections called "Manual Technique of Methodic and Systematic Washing of Surgical Site.” I also created a video to demonstrate the technique for my staff, which I am continuing to refine based on clinical input from colleagues.

I also organize a number of scientific days to rally all of my health care colleagues to increase education around important topics such as infection prevention. The prevention of nosocomial infection is my worry every day and I focus on the surgical site infection. We also have challenges with surgical instruments.

On Leading Others

Each morning I consult my resources on leadership to help me be the best leader I can be for my team. I always repeat to the operating room members "on ne force pas un adulte mais on négocie avec lui,” which means one doesn't oblige an adult but one negotiates with him. As a leader, I work to collaborate with colleagues, rather than force my ideas, so that we can work toward our shared goals.

It’s also important to me that my team members have a voice so we meet the last Friday of the month to discuss concerns and areas we want to improve within our facility. I also work hard alongside my team and this is something I encourage everyone to do. I am lucky to have a very dedicated team, everyone volunteers and pitches in to help where needed.

On Community

I am dedicated to advancing health and well-being for our patients and also for the men, women, and children of our community. That is why I formed a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Health Promotion Organization to support knowledge and awareness of health in my community.

We educate schoolboys on how to prevent an epidemic sickness here called Lassa Fever (a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus). We go to the villages and exchange with people, mainly children and teenagers. The NGO also holds scientific meetings with private hospitals and public health authorities that includes nurses and physicians focusing on infection prevention in the operating theatre.

On a Global Nursing Perspective

Participating in international meetings gives me the opportunity to learn from colleagues and share the unique work practiced at my hospital. I recently presented on my surgical site infection prevention protocol in Belgium during the 31st congress of AFISO (the French speaking association for perioperative and health care professionals).

I also stay in close contact with my perioperative nursing colleagues across Africa and Europe to ask questions and share ideas. Although the challenges we may face in our own hospitals and communities may be unique, we are all perioperative nurses working together to protect patients.

On Nurse-Life Balance

When I am not working in the hospital, traveling for meetings, studying English at the University or working with my NGO, I enjoy spending time with my wife and four children. We walk outside after church on the weekends and we spend time together during the week to help with the children’s homework and be together. I also love music, dance, travel, and making my own line of clothing. Even in my free time I am often researching to improve perioperative care, a subject area I am always thinking about.

Kovohouandé has been a perioperative nurse since 2011 and actively participates in regional and international professional nursing meetings. He is eager to work more with AORN members in his continued efforts to address nosocomial infection in the surgical setting.

Interested in hearing more international perspectives and learning about practice issues impacting perioperative around the world? Make plans to attend the global track education sessions at AORN’s annual conference.