Serving as a Volunteer Nurse Educator, Laura Brennaman spent last year teaching and living in Uganda. As a PhD trained nurse, with over thirty years of experience teaching in the classroom and at the bedside, Laura used her knowledge to strengthen the advanced nursing training at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).
This fall, Laura returned to Uganda, to continue to support her dedicated students. In this blog, Laura reflects on her work and what motivated her to return to Uganda.
During academic year 2016-17 at MUST, I worked with and taught the first three talented cohorts of graduate nursing students who are studying to earn Master’s in Nursing Science (MNS) degrees with a clinical specialty in critical care. There were six students in each of the first two cohorts, and eleven students in the third cohort. My responsibilities were teaching critical care nursing content, health assessment skills, and mentoring and advising for each of the student’s master’s research thesis.
In January 2017, four of the first cohort students achieved their goals and became the pioneer graduates of the fledgling program. The second half of my year in Uganda, I advised and guided eight more students to complete their clinical studies and successfully defend their research theses to prepare for graduation in October 2017. I was gratified and proud to see these dedicated and brilliant students also graduate when I returned for my first of several visits back to MUST. Seeing their proud faces and knowing that they each have roles already in the Ugandan health and education systems to pay forward their new skills and knowledge strengthened my resolve to see the third cohort through this year to achieve their objectives.
As does all graduate curricula in Uganda, the MUST MNS curriculum requires and independent research thesis. My primary role as I return to MUST this year for several short visits is to advise the 3rd cohort of students with their research and mentor the MUST department of nursing faculty in the research advising role for future cohorts.
Similar to the nursing labor force in many developing countries, few nurses in Uganda have university-based education at the bachelor degree level, with the majority trained as enrolled/certificate nurses (similar to the LPN/LVN role in the US). However, all of the students in the MNS program had bachelor’s degrees, with goals of improving the quality and scope of nursing practice and education in Uganda. By gaining advanced knowledge, and sharing it through education and mentorship with Ugandan nurses and nursing students, they’ll help to achieve that future.
The research component of the students’ education bolsters the quality and value of the MNS graduates, as they each select topics of particular importance to the local context of health care and their findings will have the potential to make advances to delivery of services and improve patient outcomes. For example, Rachel Luwanga, a graduate of the second cohort, examined ways for nurses to identify and intervene early when women have signs of post-partum sepsis – a major cause of maternal mortality in Sub-saharan Africa
As I continue to work with students and their research this year, we will be examining new ways to improve care delivery in low resources settings with topics including prevention of hospital acquired conditions (pressure ulcers and post-surgical complications), implementation of best practices to reduce maternal mortality from eclampsia, improving the first 24-hour response to trauma victims and increasing medication adherence for people with the growing issues of non-communicable diseases.