Student nurses come up trumps by doing good in Africa

Student nurses come up trumps by doing good in Africa

Student nurses come up trumps by doing good in Africa

In the midst of global concern about misuse of power and resources, student nurses in AIT (Athlone Institute of Technology) really are coming up trumps by travelling to Uganda and sharing their medical expertise with health workers in the developing world.

Ten general nursing students and two academic staff, Dr. Des Cawley and Mr. Tommy Healy, travelled to Uganda last June and July, on an overseas volunteering programme managed by the non-governmental organisation (NGO), Nurture Africa. Project Africa 2016-2019 will see another group of students depart in mid-June to volunteer, led by staff members Dr Des Cawley and Mr Tommy Healy.

Already, the standard of care at Nuture Africa Centre, Nansana Kampala, Uganda has been raised thanks to the volunteers, and future volunteers will build on this, while themselves gaining insights into global health inequalities, experiencing first-hand the challenges and rewards of volunteerism, and learning about the work of NGOs.

In June, Dr. Cawley, Lecturer in Nursing Studies accompanied the first group of envoys: Shauna Mahony, Loughrea, Co Galway, Niamh McCarthy, Youghal, Co Cork, Rebecca Curtin, Ennis, Co Clare, Emma Burke, Cloghan, Co. Offaly and Sara Butler, Thurles, Co Tipperary

In July, Mr. Healy, Lecturer in Psychiatric Nursing, followed with Rebecca McManus, Dun Laoghaire; Tommy Nally, Mullingar; Megan Maher, Ferbane; Deirdre Allen, Caslepollard and Rudi Sandison, Mullingar. All of the students were about to enter the final stage of their undergraduate pre-registration honours degree in nursing in September.

Dr. Cawley, told of how students’ impressions of the centre were good, but it took several days to acclimatise to the different culture, work environment and service delivery processes:

“It’s a well-developed, modern building laid out to accommodate all of the services delivered there. Students were delighted with the environment within the centre - especially after walking down the dusty roads. However, having themselves come from the frenetic work pace of the Irish hospital environment, students felt that a lack of organisation and slow pace of work, impeded service delivery. They felt frustrated at not seeing nursing procedures such as assessment, nursing diagnoses, care planning and delivery, being carried out as they are at home.”

During the first few days of the June placement, Dr. Cawley identified several clinical areas where improvements might be made in the delivery of the healthcare and education programmes already identified by Nurture Africa. Over the following twenty days or so these actionable objectives were identified and began to be addressed. The interventions included: hand-washing and infection control; updates and training on basic life support, some new and improved practices in the peri-operative environment. The AIT students delivered an effective programme of best clinical practice in hand-washing and infection control techniques (using the SARI guidelines) and a programme on basic life support as outlined and recommended by the American Heart Association.

On the July placement, Mr. Healy, who accompanied that group, observed that these recommendations were already being implemented.

The AIT envoys also contributed to developing local practices regarding HIV, sexual health and family planning. In June, Dr. Cawley met with the volunteer coordinators to discuss the merits and benefits of some outreach and school placements such as Alliance High School. It was agreed to review nursing practices on these placements and update coordinators of same. As a result, volunteers in July were placed in these schools and spoke to relevant secondary school classes on hygiene; sexual health and education, especially in relation to family planning, contraceptive methods, prevention of HIV; HIV identification clinics and HIV remedies at the Nurture Africa Clinics.

The volunteers participated in training at the Nurture Africa laboratory, learning theory and practical skills about HIV screening, care and safety precautions.

Volunteers reviewed school nursing practices in a local secondary school. Within the context of the merits and strengths of this school nurse service, the volunteers’ findings regarding patient privacy, hand-washing, and overuse of antibiotics, were offered to the school director, and Nurture Africa is conducting a review.

“The home-visits and sustainable living projects were very educational for the group. Some volunteers struggled emotionally at witnessing poverty, ill-health, child neglect and abuse, but they and I were amazed at the dignity and resilience of the African people in the face of such difficult life experience”, commented Dr. Cawley.

The AIT volunteers were subsequently invited to an event in the Irish Embassy honouring Irish NGOs. Both the Irish Ambassador to Uganda, Mr. Donal Cronin, and Minister for the Diaspora and Overseas Aid, Mr. Joe McHugh, paid particular tributes to staff and students of AIT for their contribution via this project.

Students described their experience as “positive, humbling, gratifying and absolutely worthwhile”.

to editors

Project Africa 2016 - 2019 proposed that staff Department of Nursing and Healthcare would accompany ten Stage III nursing students to Uganda, Africa in June/July 2016 on an overseas volunteer programme, and for two subsequent years. The project is facilitated through the Nurture Africa Organisation. The project seeks to provide students with an insight into global health inequalities which are prevalent in the developing world. This project will provide participants (students and staff) with an emic view of the workings of non-governmental organisations, volunteerism and the positive health outcomes through its associated interventions.



The July group on completion of three-hour street HIV clinic : (left to right) Nursing Lecturer Tommy Healy, and student nurses Rebecca McManus, Tommy Nally, Megan Maher, Deirdre Allen and Rudi Sandison.


Sharing their expertise at a HIV Clinic in a Kampala suburb community: student nurse Megan Maher and Gabrielle Healy a Qualified Nurse Volunteer.


Who dares wins! Two rival local primary schools and their managers: Mullingar Shamrocks managed by student nurse Tommy Nally and St. Lomans Mullingar managed by student nurse Rudi Sandison. The match was vigorous and ultra-competitive with the final score, Mullingar Shamrocks 2, St Lomans 1.


All set up and ready to go a HIV Clinic: (left to right) student nurses Deirdre Allen, Megan Maher, Rebecca McManus, Gabrielle Healy, Qualified Nurse Volunteer, Nursing Lecturer Tommy Healy AIT, student nurses Tommy Nally and Rudi Sandison.

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