September 28, 2017
Two young Japanese nurses left the comforts of their home and family in Japan to support two local hospitals in Eastern Visayas.
Akihiro Kaneko, 35, was already working as nurse in Ibaraki Prefecture Central Hospital, when he decided to join the Volunteer Program of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the Philippines.
Assigned in the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), Kaneko said he went to the Philippines to share his experiences on public health and emergency care from working in a Japanese hospital. "In Japan, I saw people dying because of traffic accident or from other illnesses. It was then when I realized that life is short and it is best lived with meaning," he said.
Kaneko, wearing the same hospital scrubs as the rest of EVRMC Filipino nurses and staff, is sharing Japan's 5S method (a workplace organization technique developed in Japan to improve work efficiency) to the hospital staff. 5S stands for ‘seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, shitsuke' (sort, set, shine, standardize, sustain) for more effective workplace operations and systems.
The EVRMC is currently trying to improve its emergency care services including organizing an emergency cart to help patients. Kaneko's 5S knowledge proved useful in realizing the emergency cart and consequently improving patients' recovery rate.
"Together with my counterparts, we try to help institutionalize the 5S practice in the hospital by training the staff and sharing information materials that will help them incorporate 5S in their lives," Kaneko said.
"I learned that Filipinos value time with their family so much. Under 5S, hospital staff and even patients' families can uphold cleanliness standards, and time is managed more effectively. With this organization technique, the staff then would have more time to go home early or spend time with family," he added.
Kaneko works with his counterparts in sorting medicines for emergency situations, organizing medical supplies, waste management, and equipment, and supporting basic emergency care services.
"We added music in implementing 5S activities and broadcast the 5S 10-minute program three times a day, requiring all employees and patients' families to do the 5S. Everything is for the patients' best interest," he added. The benefits of 5S, according to Kaneko, are many including comfortable working environment, improved professionalism, and effective time management among others.
Meantime, at the Provincial Health Office (PHO) and Leyte Provincial Hospital (LPH), young Japanese Atsumi Hashimoto, 28, is also helping promote 5S techniques to support infection control and waste segregation in the hospital.
Prior to coming in the Philippines, Hashimoto worked as nurse at the Soka Municipal Hospital in Saitama Prefecture for five years. "I was just a university student enjoying online shopping when I was about 20 years old. I was supposed to click an online shopping banner when I accidentally clicked an ad for Japanese volunteers. It was how my interest in volunteering started and I guess clicking on the ad was destiny."
This interest in volunteer work was also when her journey to Leyte began. In 2013, she saw footages of Typhoon Yolanda on television and hoped to someday help the victims.
"I have had enough experience as nurse so I applied for the JOCV program and saw the request of Leyte for JOCV nurse. That's when I applied," said Hashimoto.
"When I came here, local health records were not organized, maybe because they are recovering from the disaster. So, what I did is to help in the proper labeling of hospital materials and introducing waste segregation techniques in the hospital. These are all crucial in controlling infection and in times of emergency," she said.
In an area where poverty is high and people would need the best health care services they can get, Kaneko and Hashimoto show that any little help could go a long way in Tacloban. In Japan, where basic things and modern advancements are readily available, what the young Japanese nurses experienced and saw at the local hospitals have already given so much meaning to their nursing career and more so, in their lives.
Japanese volunteers in Leyte Akihiko Kaneko (left) and Atsumi Hashimoto (right) promote 5S in their workplace to improve work efficiency