Amalthea Trust training at FINS, Fort Portal, Uganda. 18th to 27th October 2019.
Tired, and with aching limbs after travelling for over 24 hours, I finally landed at Entebbe and was greeted as I stepped through the airport arrivals area by the smiling face of our excellent taxi driver Alfred, and then driven to the Trust’s rented apartment in Kampala. The Project Co-ordinator, Jas, was my host for the night and made sure I was showered and rested ready for the drive to Fort Portal the following morning.
Sunday was spent at my motel chilling out and organising myself for the week ahead, and getting my teaching materials and medical equipment in some sort of order.
On Monday morning when I arrived at FINS (Fort Portal International Nursing School) it was great to see a room full to capacity with eager students, but not so great to realise that there was no power, so that I had to resort to “chalk and talk” until the power was restored. At least there was no risk to students of “Death by PowerPoint” !
It turned out that the loss of electrical supply was to be an on-going theme throughout the week, but the students were used to it and I was able to carry on teaching without the laptop when necessary, so no harm was done.
The philosophy behind my teaching sessions was to give these young student nurses and midwives an appreciation of the science behind the operation of various items of medical equipment, factors that impact on the effectiveness of measurements or treatments, common problems, and some golden rules for looking after and using medical devices. The idea being that if they knew how the items worked, knew how to use them correctly, and knew how to look after them, then not only should there be better outcomes for their patients but there should also be less breakdowns. We covered the theory of non-invasive blood pressure measurement, thermometry (contact and tympanic), pulse oximetry, ECG monitoring and recording, defibrillators, incubators, foetal monitors, infusion devices, and carried out hands-on practical sessions with the students on each of these subjects using devices donated by the Amalthea Trust. The students were also given teaching on a wide range of other medical devices, including intubation and mechanical ventilation, X-Ray, Ultrasound, laparoscopy/endoscopy, etc.
We covered the basics of electricity and the importance of electrical safety, (particularly with regard to medical devices) and the importance of cleanliness, tidiness and the prevention of cross-infection, and that students should also consider their own welfare, safety and protection.
The students were very keen to learn of the world outside Uganda, and we had some good times sharing our different experiences. The average class size for every session was around 80+ students (about a quarter of them being young men), and at the final test there were 107 students receiving certificates. The certificates were professionally printed, and the students really valued this.
It was good to see continued investment at FINS with improvements in the fabric of the buildings and facilities. The director of FINS, Victor, has also obtained university status for FINS Medical University, and is building a small hospital on-site which is near completion.
After my week of training was over, I hosted a meeting of HAFT, a group of former and current students who carry out health education and outreach in rural communities with the aim of preventing disease and promoting health awareness and associated issues. I then spent a couple of days relaxing in Fort Portal before returning to Kampala via public transport (not recommended for the faint of heart!), then to Entebbe, and finally home.
Dave Robinson (Specialist Clinical Engineer, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, U.K.)