Sask Polytech Students Provide Interprofessional Care in Kenya

Health Sciences and nursing students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic put their knowledge and skills into practice through an international study abroad opportunity in Africa in May


Six Sask Polytech students, two each from the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing (SCBScN), which is jointly offered by the University of Regina, the Dental Hygiene and the Therapeutic Recreation programs, were part of the international study abroad opportunity. The students from Sask Polytech, together with students from the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC, worked with students from Dedan Kimathi University in Nyeri, Kenya for three months prior to their travel. Through this collaboration, the students were able to better understand the needs of the communities they would visit and plan for the services they would offer while in Kenya.

“The global engagement between the groups was very important,” said Stacey Shand, interprofessional education coordinator at Sask Polytech who led the project. “We were able to learn what to expect when we arrived, what resources and knowledge they would have in Kenya and what we could support with. The partnership was effective because of this collaboration.”

As with the partnership between the post-secondary institutions, the partnership between health care providers was also important.

“Health care is not single facetted,” said Shand. As the interprofessional education coordinator with the School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing, Shand is familiar with the importance and effectiveness of collaboration between disciplines. “When we provide holistic care, we can see how everything is linked and can better serve the individual.”

During their first week in Kenya, the group supported several outreach projects in the community including providing health services to 400 elementary school children at Muringato Primary School. Teaching flossing and tooth brushing, thorough hand washing and the importance of proper nutrition were important parts of the program as were leading physical activities including sports and games. The post-secondary students also assisted at Serene Haven Rescue Centre for Vulnerable Teenage Mothers and at New Life, a crisis nursery, and toured the Nyeri public hospital.

“The biggest impact for me was how refreshing it was that so many people I met during the health week were so interested in not only their dental health but their health as a whole,” says Blaine Maxwall, Dental Hygiene student. “I felt like my expertise really mattered. Dental hygiene is not a profession in Kenya so dental knowledge was limited. I could not believe how receptive people of all ages were when we were educating on various dental-related topics.”

“We had the opportunity to share our health care knowledge and skills with these groups and see how it will have a positive impact,” said Shand. As they learned of the needs of these facilities, the Canadian students, faculty, and their families came together to provide additional supplies and support in the form of feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes, dental floss kits and much needed food supplies for children and infants.

During the second week the group was in Kenya they assisted the Dedan Kimathi University students in hosting a Health Week on campus. Over four days the group provided a range of health services to 2,500 students. Booths included HIV testing, sexual health, blood pressure clinics, dental hygiene instruction, benefits of physical activity, recreation, sports and stretching, and the importance of proper nutrition and how it can affect one's overall health. The group also assisted with mental health tools to help manage stress and anxiety. On day five of the Health Week, the event was based in the community as part of their outreach efforts, and over 1,000 people attended that day.

“Going to Kenya was the experience of a lifetime. Do I hope to experience something better within my nursing student career? Yes. Will I? Probably not,” says nursing student Shawna Arcand. “Kenya has improved my outlook on life but also how I will continue to practice as a nurse. We are so incredibly lucky as a country with how our healthcare system works. Kenya was so welcoming and it will be an experience I talk about for years to come.”

“I feel very fortunate that our Therapeutic Recreation students were chosen to represent Sask Polytech as part of this study abroad opportunity and to be a part of the health week activities in Kenya,” says Linda Martin Therapeutic Recreation program head and instructor. “For me personally, this was an incredible, heartwarming and educational experience. I’m proud of the work our students did to promote Therapeutic Recreation with students of all ages in Kenya.”

Students shared information on the benefits of Therapeutic Recreation and how it’s used to support vulnerable populations and people living with disabilities to improve their quality of life. The Therapeutic Recreation students also led physical activities and games for children and taught the Kenyan university students about Canadian sport and recreation. The program donated soccer balls as part of the trip.

“My favourite part of the journey was visiting the primary school children,” says Kate Modon, Therapeutic Recreation student. “We explained the benefits and importance of physical activity. The whole experience was amazing. It was great to work collaboratively with other Canadian students and the Kenyan university students. I learned a lot, made new friends and lots of amazing memories.”

This is the first of three study abroad opportunities offered in partnership with Dedan Kimathi University, funded under the Global Skills Opportunity fund, managed by College of the Rockies.  Through the Sask Polytech International Education department, School of Health Sciences and College of the Rockies, two additional trips are scheduled for the spring and fall of 2024.

Global Skills Opportunity, the Government of Canada’s national outbound student mobility pilot program, made this international experience possible. It is an integral component of the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy and is administered jointly by Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). Projects are designed, implemented and managed by participating universities and colleges across the country. GSO’s vision is to expand the horizons of Canadian students from coast to coast and improve Canada’s competitiveness on the world stage.  

Visit Global Learning Experiences for more information on opportunities offered at Sask Polytech.

June 2023


Saskatchewan Polytechnic serves students through applied learning opportunities on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 Territories and the homeland of the Métis.