A group of nursing students from the University of South Wales has taken a first-hand look at the challenges faced by the health services in the African country of Uganda.
Seven second-year undergraduates, who are studying adult nursing, spent two weeks in the country as part of a project organised by charity Pont, which builds relationships between South Wales and communities in Uganda.
“It was also quite normal for women to be giving birth on the grass outside the hospital”
The nursing team visited a training school, a women’s self-help group, a charity school in a slum area in the city of Mbale, and talked to village health teams.
For one full day the team also concentrated on supporting people who were older than 60 to give them advice on healthcare through a pop-up clinic.
In addition, the group spent time in two hospitals – one that was publicly run in the city of Mbale, which was very busy, and another one in the same area that was privately run but “much quieter”.
“It was such an eye-opener,” said Nadine Robinson, a student from Abercynon. “The public hospital was so different to those in this country. I’ll never complain about the NHS ever again.
“There was very little privacy, and once people had been diagnosed with an illness, they then had to decide if and how they could pay for the treatment,” she said.
“A great many of the injuries were caused by road accidents,” she said. “It was also quite normal for women to be giving birth on the grass outside the hospital, which was very strange to witness.”
In contrast, Ms Robinson noted that the private hospital they visited was obviously “very different”, but also “much quieter”.
“We couldn’t really understand why they didn’t work together to treat more people,” she said.
“It’s vital that nurses understand how cultural differences can have a massive impact”
However, she said the students observed how happy people were, that children seemed to develop much earlier, everyone seemed much healthier, and there were was a very positive attitude to life.
Dr Nicky Genders, Head of university’s school of nursing, added: “It’s fascinating to hear the students’ stories and how their experience in Uganda has given them a different insight into healthcare settings.
“It’s vital that nurses understand how cultural differences can have a massive impact on the sort of care that they can give, and the type of support the patient needs,” she said.
“The Uganda trip will help open their eyes to a much-wider range of learning than they might otherwise have had,” she noted.