BL Project: Emma And Nick Return Home

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Emma: Coming to the end of my year working at St. Mary’s Lacor hospital in Uganda I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sadness at leaving and retain incredibly positive feelings towards my time here. Whilst not always easy, on many levels, there is no doubt in my mind that this time has been very valuable to me, both personally and professionally. Purely to experience a different culture and way of working has been eye-opening; my lasting impression will be of a team who work incredibly hard despite very difficult circumstances. For example, each doctor reviews around triple the number of patients I would normally see on a daily basis at home and takes on much more responsibility at a very early stage of training. Whilst there are drawbacks to this system it does mean that both I, and they, learn to develop and rely on self-motivation, determination and personally-driven learning; skills that will stay with me through the rest of my career. My time here has also emphasized the need to review systems and look for ways of improvement and I was so impressed to observe this happening on a weekly basis on the children’s ward and be invited to participate in this. Without hesitation, I would recommend this experience to all medical trainees, for the opportunity to develop hugely as a person and as a clinician whilst working alongside an incredible team. The people I have met have been inspiring, brilliant and yet completely humble, never failing to express their joy and gratitude at sharing their experience with someone interested in their work. I will remember and rely on this experience as I move forward with my career; hoping always that I find an opportunity to return."

Nick: Nursing in the developing world is everything everybody warned you about and more, the 'more' is the positive stuff that the pre-trip stories missed. Yes the wards are overcrowded, understaffed and drugs aren't always readily available but there's more to it than that. As soon as you look past the horror stories you find the genuine stories of dedication. In the UK student nurses are part of the workforce, often here in Uganda they are the workforce as they may be the only staff on the ward. This reality includes giving intravenous antibiotics and fluids, something unthinkable to me at home on my 26 bedded ward with 6-7 paediatric trained staff on every shift. The children's ward here at Lacor has 106 beds and usually 120-140 patients. To look after the children they have 5 staff during the day and 2 at night and only the ward sister is a paediatric nurse. On my first day here I was working with a student who was giving IVabx to a very sick boy with febrile neutropaenia. Coming to Uganda has opened my eyes to a different world - a simpler one, but also a harder one. People, including children, die everyday here but I have rarely seen any emotion. In part this is due to the inherent privacy of the Ugandan people but it is also due to the reality of a world where death is an everyday occurrence. 'Gods will' is a phrase I heard regularly, an acceptance that 'bad things happen,' but you carry on. As part of my work here I spent some time in the community following up patients who were treated early on in the study & had not been reviewed recently, I felt very humble visiting homes & being made to feel so welcome. In truth all I did was sit in a car & be driven from house to house, I had not been directly involved in their child's care but that didn't seem to matter to them as I was invited into their home, offered food & drink & gifts to take home. I have not watched TV since before Christmas, I have read 42 books instead, this simpler life has been refreshing for me. I have baked which I'd never done before (I have also put on weight but everything has it's price). Gulu & Lacor have a resilience born out of war and hardship, which is a lesson to all. Everybody has made us most welcome and I am very sad that I've come to the end of my time in Uganda. But I will be taking home memories that will brighten my days for a long time."

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