A message from the Executive Director of Galen Center for Professional Development, in partnership with Whisper’s Children’s Hospital Jinja, Uganda, and Healing the Children, Kentucky.
In Jinja, Uganda, in an environment of extremely scarce resources, nurses administer potent medications to treat meningitis, hang blood for patients with malaria, and treat diarrhea, malnutrition, and deliver babies all in a day’s work.
As we rounded with doctors and nurses at Whisper’s Children’s Hospital, we learned quickly they had been waiting for us. I have never been met with such an outpouring of gratitude for education in my career.
Before I get ahead of myself, our journey began with a little boy named Patrick who had been suffering from an undiagnosed heart condition in his hometown of Jinja. Whisper’s Magical Children’s Hospital, the local hospital was not able to provide the necessary medical treatment. The Louisville chapter of the national nonprofit Healing the Children worked with Norton Children’s Hospital to have Patrick flown to Louisville for treatment. Unfortunately, the condition had taken its toll on Patrick’s small body and he died before surgery could be performed.
Debi McDonald the Executive Director of Healing the Children Kentucky flew Patrick’s body home to Jinja only to discover his sister also had a heart defect but was healthy enough to endure surgery. Debi brought back Gift, Patrick’s sister and her mom, but also brought the Chief Executive Officer Veronika Cejpkova and Dr. Fahad the Chief Medical Officer of Whisper’s Magical Children’s Hospital.
Kathy Mershon, GCPD and GCN’s chairperson of our board discussed Whisper’s needs with Veronika and without hesitation she held education was the most important need they have. Without a second thought Kathy Mershon put Veronika in touch with our team to deliver Nurse Development Resources® (NDR) to the nurses and doctors at Whisper’s. It was within two months all the nurses at Whisper’s had completed our NDR pediatric outcome driven modules and we were on our way to Uganda to learn about their work, collaborate and share knowledge about pediatric care across the globe.
Working with Debi McDonald, one of SOS’s longtime partners and Executive Director of Healing the Children Kentucky, Rebecca Dixon pulled together a coalition of advocates to send supplies and equipment to Whisper’s Magical Children’s Hospital in Patrick’s hometown.
Members of the Greater Louisville Medical Society Alliance’s mission team and Galen School of Nursing plan to make two medical mission trips to Jinja once the container arrives.
Debi McDonald (third from left) and Rebecca Dixon (center) with the SOS team after loading the container.
Debi McDonald and her daughter, Becca hand carried supplies from the U.S. Here they are unpacking with an excited and grateful Whisper’s Team.
Every day was packed with experiences from primary school visits, government hospital visits, USAID project visit
specifically the 90/90/90 project to eliminate HIV-AIDS by 2030, shadowing at the hospital day and night shifts, community outreach, plus lively evenings discussions over dinners with Whisper’s hospital staff, doctors, and nurses.
But no matter where we went, what we saw, the recurring theme was a sincere value for education.
These bright smiling children with eager faces, who through Whisper’s, receive uniforms, paper materials, and an education welcomed us with song and a gratitude for learning that astounded us!
Our hospital shadowing shifts were enlightening, and the nurses and doctors unequivocally identified their most pressing need was to improve their resuscitation efforts. Both nurses and doctors voiced stress and a lack of confidence during codes and the team felt they needed more training and practice.
We found their resuscitation box to need an overhaul and had an energetic and interactive session to create an organized resuscitation box that had standardized equipment and supplies. The team created a checklist of necessary items, responsibilities and accountability and developed a process to ensure the box is always ready.
The maternity ward along with Susan Mahoney created two new resuscitation boxes, one for the laboring mother and one for the newborn.
Our assessment of Whisper’s needs included teaching about a tool they already had but hadn’t used. It is the Pediatric Early Warning System or PEWS, an evidence based tool that helps nurses identify if a child is deteriorating before they need resuscitation.
In pediatric patients, their heart rate, respiratory rate and behavior can tell a lot about how sick or well a child is. The PEWS works like a rapid response team would (early identification of a clinical status change). It calls for simple monitoring and timely interventions through collaboration with the doctor.
Whisper’s was eager to learn how this tool could reduce the number of resuscitations and continue to improve patient outcomes. They immediately set a plan to implement PEWS scoring on all pediatric emergency patients and began shift-to-shift PEWS reviews.
Again, and again we were elated to see the enthusiasm Whisper’s team had to learn and change yes, I said change. Whisper’s embraces change for the betterment of the quality care they deliver and the children they serve.
We wrapped up our week with a collaborative meeting with the hospital administration and Debi McDonald from Healing the Children to map out our learnings and future plans. We topped off the evening with a recognition ceremony and pizza party for all!
Ongoing efforts are to sustain continuing education training for Whisper’s nurses, doctors and staff including CPR, Anatomy & Physiology review, and professional development to the leadership team. We are eager to continue collaboration with Healing the Children to sustain ongoing support for Whisper’s Magical Children’s Hospital.
We can improve the health of children globally through education and sharing our expertise. In closing, I titled this message “Almost Speechless” because I was speechless for days upon returning to the States. I found it difficult to articulate the impact something so easy (education) can have. However, after reflecting on our experiences in Jinja, I am compelled to share. People are people everywhere.