Empowering My Students to Have a Voice – Nurse education in Uganda

CommunicationsBlog, Nursing, Uganda, Uncategorized

Melissa Lincks IHK ICU MUST masters students (1)


Two years ago, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) established the first Masters in Critical Care Nursing program in Uganda with a small class of just six students. After two years of intensive course work and direct patient care, the students are approaching graduation.

Prior to becoming a Global Health Service Partnership Volunteer, I spent more than 10 years as a pediatric intensive care nurse. Now, as a GHSP Nurse Educator, I have used my knowledge and experience to mentor and train these students in their second and final year of study.

The students conduct most of their clinical training at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). But the resources to make the best evidence-based practice interventions are often unavailable at MRRH.  So as they prepare to end their program, they are required to spend three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at International Hospital of Kampala (IHK) –  a ten-bed unit that serves a diversity of patients, from premature neonates to adult patients. The ICU at IHK is better equipped with supplies and personnel, allowing students to advance their skills with exposure to different medical devices, a variety of different patient cases, and experienced clinicians. The unit is well-equipped, with monitors at every bedside, functional, up-to-date equipment, and resources to perform life-saving measures at all hours of the day.  The physicians on the ICU are dedicated educators and are eager to teach both medical and nursing students.

With my background in critical care, the masters students asked to have me accompany them to IHK as their clinical instructor. In this role, I provided the most current, evidence-based practice standards, demonstrated procedures, and trained students on how to use the equipment available in the unit. But more importantly, I stressed the importance of nurses as an essential part of the health care team and tried to empower my students to have a voice in the care they were giving to their patients.

After our time at IHK, many students shared with me how valuable they found having a clinical instructor to be and the importance of what they learned from their time at IHK. Below are a few of the words students shared with me:

“It was the good push we needed in the right direction,” Grace wrote.  “Watching you freely interact with everyone, about patient care, inspired me. I said to myself, I want to be like that some day, I want to have enough knowledge to be able to hold a discussion about a patient, and not simply follow orders.”

Adrian wrote the following about the impact of having a clinical instructor on the local staff. “Actually your presence was more than beneficial to the local staff in that some of them admitted that they learnt many things that were not fully understood from their training and they were also moved about the efforts of ensuring that each bed had an ambu bag plus other basics for emergency management.  They also realized that having an instructor around helped them get to ask questions and sharpen their level of understanding.”

“Having Melissa with at IHK was a very commendable arrangement,” Tamu wrote.  “A number of aspects, including continuous orientation to ICU setting, critical assessment and protocols of ICU management, and precautions to take with different categories of critical patients would not have been effectively addressed in her absence.  She instilled hard work, keen observation of ICU patients, which is paramount in critical care. Very supportive and exemplary and instilled great team work.”

By Melissa Lincks, 2015 GHSP Nurse Educator in Uganda