Over 220 local health professionals attended a conference on wound/burn care and pain management organized by Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) Volunteers in Uganda on April 16.
The conference was funded and organized using Program Support Resources provided by GHSP, and involved GHSP Physician and Nurse Educators, faculty colleagues, and medical and nursing students from all of the GHSP sites in Uganda, including a delegation of 60 who crowded onto a bus for the 11-hour journey from Mbarara in southern Uganda to Lira in the north, where the conference was held.
“It was a wonderful conference,” reported Cherie Clark, a GHSP Nurse Educator based in Lira, who shouldered the daunting logistical challenges of hosting a national conference at a new university that opened its doors less than four years ago. “We had pretty broad representation. We had quite a few doctors – including our chief of surgery here in Lira and doctors from other institutions – and we had heads of nursing departments from all the nursing institutions in Uganda. We had a lot of students. And we had a really excellent mixture of speakers.”
Students and faculty who participated in the conference shared her assessment. When asked to evaluate the event, one nursing student, who made the 22-hour round-trip journey from Mbarara, wrote: “Awesome, awesome conference. Am glad I could be a part of this great experience. Definitely a good opportunity for learning and networking. Well-versed speakers, well-organized presentations with relevant content.”
The “excellent mixture of speakers,” all but one of them Ugandan, included prominent physicians and nurses specializing in wound care and pain management, as well as James Karugaba, a nursing student from Mbarara, and GHSP Nurse Educator Robert Kasibante, a Uganda-born US citizen who has returned to his native country to teach for the year.
Some of the best-received presentations included:
- The keynote on “Responsive Burn and Wound Care” delivered by Dr. Ben Khingi and followed by a presentation on “Wound Management” by one of his nursing colleagues, Mildred Oyello;
- A joint presentation by Dr. Steven Luboyera and Nasure Byinza of Hospice Africa-Uganda on “The Concept of Total Pain and Barriers to Effective Pain Control”;
- A session on prevention and management of surgical wound complications from C-sections by Dr. Otim Tom George; and
- A demonstration by Danielle Zurovcik, a mechanical engineer and winner of an innovation award from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Consortium for Affordable Medical Technology (CAMTech), of an innovative “wound vac” apparatus designed to make negative pressure wound therapy – the gold standard for treatment of open wounds – affordable and widely available in resource-limited settings.
“They did a beautiful job,” said Julie Anathan, Seed’s Associate Director of Nursing, who attended the conference. “It was a wonderful opportunity for nursing and medical students, nurses, doctors, and faculty to come together and talk about a huge problem.”
Observations at the conference and initial feedback from participants confirm that they came away with increased awareness and interest in tackling the huge problems of wound care and pain management.
“People were really engaged,” Clark said. “When you walked down the aisle and looked around during the conference, more than half the people had smartphones out and were making notes and googling things about pain control. And the feedback has been extremely positive – that they learned a lot, that they are very grateful that we were able to bring people in that could teach them.”
“We nursing students who attended the conference really improved our knowledge,” said Philip Muhamya, a masters student who made the long trip from Mbarara. “The most important things I learned were management of wounds and burns using the available resources, assessment and management of pain in children, and use of negative pressure to manage wounds. When I came back from the conference, I took up absorbent dressing as the project I will do as part of my training. I will introduce it on surgical and pediatric wards at Mbarara Regional Hospital and teach nurses how it works.”
“My students were overjoyed with the conference,” Clark concluded. “They were so honored to have Lira recognized in this way. I thought it put us on the map and made a good impression with all the town folk. We’re a small city and this is probably one of the biggest things that’s ever happened here.”