By Gillian Leitch and Ritah Namwiza
Kampala, Uganda –Dressed in blue, pink and white uniforms, nurses, midwives and students from around the country attended a symposium that honored their role and contributions in improving the health of women and families in Uganda.
Centered on the theme “Recognizing the Unsung Heroes of Our Health System,” the 2017 Nurses and Midwives Symposium provided an opportunity for these front line health workers to gain new skills and strategies to be leaders in the field. Hosted by Peace Corps, Seed Global Health, Voluntary Service Overseas and Jhpiego Uganda, the symposium brought together more than 150 nurses and midwives, government officials, academic experts, international donors and private sector leaders. The Uganda event was held in advance of International Day of the Midwife (May 5) and International Nurses Day (May 12).
Two standouts from the Uganda symposium included remarks from the Honorable Minister of State for Primary Healthcare, Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, and Phoeb Kobusinge, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit In-Charge at Moroto Hospital.
“These health workers have contributed enormously towards reducing the preventable disease burden and ensuring that more women survive labor and delivery and (that) more newborns survive their first day of life,” Dr. Kaducu told the crowd.
Phoeb Kobisunge talked about what motivated her to serve in one of the most challenging and remote health facilities in Uganda and shared an inspiring story about how training and mentorship from Jhpiego and Voluntary Service Overseas helped her save a newborn who was unresponsive and not breathing after birth.
Other keynote speakers, including Dr. Rose Chalo Nabirye, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Makerere University, and Ms. Margaret Sancho, Director of the United States Agency for International Development Uganda Office of Health and HIV/AIDS, echoed the Minister’s remarks about the contributions that nurses and midwives have made toward advancing health outcomes in Uganda and called for further recognition of their efforts.
Technical experts from World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund and other leading institutions described the role nurses and midwives can continue to play in helping Uganda meet the Sustainable Development Goals and address emerging health challenges such as sexually transmitted infections. Participants also had a unique opportunity to engage with leaders from private sector industries, including media, banking and health care, who shared advice on how the public sector can adopt best practices from the private sector. The panelists discussed key themes such as consistency, quality, accountability and mentorship.
The day concluded with an exciting “mini-university” in which participants visited exhibit booths to learn skills and watched hands-on demonstrations on how to manage postpartum hemorrhage, safely insert an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) postpartum and resuscitate newborns.
Reflecting on the day, a nurse from the International Hospital Kampala said that “as [a] private sector [facility], we are rarely engaged in these kinds of platforms. This came as a surprise and we were happy we attended. What stood out for me was the need to do personal repackaging. I must create my own brand, one characterized by excellence in service in order to positively influence others and to leave a legacy.”