Hill City nurse working to improve health care in Cameroon

HILL CITY, S.D. — Jacalyn Griffin is an operating room nurse from Hill City, kind of a nurse without borders.

She’s gone above and beyond, spending the past decade traveling to and living in Africa to help improve the healthcare system.

Griffin found her calling while studying for her Masters in Divinity in 2001. She had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania for a medical mission trip over the summer.

For the next several years, Griffin traveled between the US and various countries in Africa training Operating room nurses. 

“It’s a wonderful privilege and honor to be able to participate here, and to be able to learn and grow from being and working and teaching in different countries and different cultures,” said Griffin. “To help create health care that is equal, and just for all people. Just as we still strive for that in the United States, we strive for it here too. And it’s good to be part of something like that.”

Griffin currently trains perioperative nurses at the Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon and compares the improvements in medical education to that of improvements in the United States, where educational requirements and training have increased over the years, even for entry level jobs.

She said, “I would say to you that I see the same type of teaching training, going on in education as what I saw when I was a small girl growing up in North Dakota.”

As for cultural differences, Griffin learned both French and Swahili in record time to be able to communicate. She learned French after nine months of intense study, and Swahili after 15 months of self study.

As for her interactions with local nurses and residents, Griffin says that in being open to the local culture and not pushing western culture, Cameroonians have been very open and welcoming to her. She does hold residency in the country, and returns to the United States twice a year to visit family, but says she does not regret the move as she’s formed lifelong friendships, and considers it divine work.

“Working in the medical field is as much missionary work as anything, because it’s all about justice. I thought, I could be part of something that is really bringing change to the world, so I‘m inspired by that.”

Since returning to Cameroon, Griffin has been invited to work in hospitals in Nigeria, Mozambique, and Malawi. She has also begun training a new class of 20 and hopes OR nurses from the Black Hills will be interested in working to help improve the health care system in Cameroon.

Griffin is hoping to grow the program, and says interested parties can reach her at jacalynrose2003@yahoo.com. 

Categories: Faces in the Crowd, Local News, South Dakota News