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St Columba’s Hospice has been involved with the development and teaching of hospice care all over the world. This year, we have been out to Uganda to help with the development of hospice care there. Janice Logan tells all…

St Columba’s Hospice is one of four hospices from across the UK which is involved in The Uganda Palliative Care Nurse Leadership Programme. The programme will develop nurse leaders in palliative care in Uganda, helping them to develop the palliative care practices in the country. Nurses in Uganda have an important role in palliative care, being described as forming the ‘backbone’ of palliative care, especially in rural areas where there is a shortage of doctors. It is hoped this programme will support the ongoing development of palliative care, and improve the quality of life of those with palliative care needs.

UGANDAI became involved in the programme after seeing an article about it online. A short while afterwards, I met Professor Julia Downing along with Dr Erna Haraldsdottir, the Hospice’s Director of Education and Research. After months of work on the project I was finally able to travel to Uganda for two weeks in January 2016.

Helping to develop palliative care practice

One of the programme’s aims is the modelling of nurse leadership through the creation of mentor relationships with palliative care nurse leaders from the UK. The purpose of my visit was to meet and lay foundations for the mentor relationship with three of the programme participants. Two of the participants are palliative care nurses at Hospice Africa Uganda in Kampala, an organisation providing community and day care services along with education and international mentoring. The other participant is a senior nursing officer in Kalongo Hospital, a 271 bed private community hospital in the northern Agago district of Uganda. As a mentor my role is to encourage individual projects aimed at advancing palliative care practice. A national project is now underway, and technology enables collaborative working between the participants in Uganda and with myself and Erna here in Scotland.

When I was in Uganda, I joined the nurses during clinical visits, whether to the patient’s home, in day care or in hospital. I witnessed excellent examples of palliative care delivery when resources were at a minimum or not available. The values expressed by health care professionals, patients and families were humbling and have left me with much to consider for our work here at St Columba’s Hospice.

“A superb learning experience”

Time spent with each participant in the programme gave me an appreciation of their role and the provision of palliative care to patients and their family at home, in day care and in hospital. Whilst in Uganda, I travelled to Kampala for five days with 20 of the participants in the programme. In Kampala, we had classes and tutorials, and I met each participant and helped to teach the classes. It was a great experience to be part of.

Without exception mentees spoke of the positive experience this programme has been for them – the direct gain of education and transferring their learning to their practice; the development and implementation of their individual projects; and learning how they can be involved in a national project. The participants were also able to meet with nurses from other areas of the country who normally they wouldn’t be able to meet because of poor transport links between the different regions.

It was a superb learning experience for me too. I learnt more than I could ever have thought possible. Overall I witnessed a very different culture and healthcare system, alongside the values expressed by patients, families and healthcare staff which left me feeling humbled me in a way I will never forget.

As a mentor I have will keep contributing to the facilitation of learning. Sharing knowledge is the only way we learn, and I am not sure that those I met are aware of how much of an impact and learning this experience had for me.

Erna and I are lucky enough to be able to go back to Uganda in the summer and we are really looking forward to meeting our mentees again to see how they are benefiting from this programme.

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