Profiles and interviews with overseas health workers and UK volunteers.
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Originally I wanted to do medicine, then later on, I was in the hospital and seeing blood and I realised that wasn’t for me, so then I thought I think I want to do engineering but I want something that is medical, I couldn’t be with the blood and patients. Of course I see blood all the time now working in the blood bank but it is not attached to anyone. When I heard of biomedical engineering, I thought this is me, so I went ahead and researched it all and then applied.
In a class of twenty there were only five girls, biomedical engineers are mainly men. I like being a woman in this field and showing that we can also do it. Here in Uganda, the boys would make fun of us: “What happens when you get pregnant and you have to work on a machine? This is men’s work”. so I have always wanted to show them that this is not only men’s work, we too are able to do it and actually I always encourage female students I meet, telling them they are on the right track and you can challenge these boys, you do not have to be intimidated by them. Now we have graduated the guys often come to me even and ask for my advice or help.
Initially I was working on general hospital equipment but now working in the lab the machines I work on are quite different. At first when I started working here I feared infections but now I find it cool and the team is great. We have also introduced lots of different safety precautions thanks to the training: we can’t handle anything without gloves, we keep the equipment separate, wash our hands constantly.
We have these water distillers and the type we have are not very common, they are made of glass and so are extremely delicate and you find that lime scale builds up quite a lot, something we did not know how to solve before the training. I used to go out to the regions and visit the other smaller labs who also have these fragile distillers and I saw how dirty they were, the water coming out of them was filthy. I would show them how to descale and clean, but would go back weeks or months later and they would look the same. Following the training, they came to the lab here and we spent time demonstrating and practicing the process with them. After, they were saying: “we will be able to fix these now, we will not need your help so much for this”. When I now go to the regions, once every quarter, they come out to me and say: “you come and see our water distillers, they are clean and working!” They are so excited to show me. So my life has really been made easier, and my workload when I go to the regions is easier to manage. The training has helped to re-spark their interest in their jobs and their willingness to learn and work hard.
The weighing scales were another piece of equipment we were able to provide training on, often they do not reset properly and so we wrote some instructions on how to use them properly and fix them. So we were able to demonstrate practically how to rebalance them for the chemicals that needed to be mixed.
There have been so many improvements since the training. Not only did I really enjoy giving some of the training myself but it was a great refresher for me and my work life is so much better now.
‘My name is Julie Tiakoru and I come from Arua. I am Lubara by tribe. I went to primary school in Masinde district until my father died and our family moved to Arua town. It was hard after my father died, my mother worked as a housemaid and we helped earn income by digging gardens.
I was determined, from when I was a child to be a nurse and started training to be one in 1980.
Soon after, we were forced to flee to the Congo by the local conflict. We stayed there a year and my training was interrupted. When we came back, I moved to Entebbe to complete my training. Soon afterwards I was married and moved back to Arua to work as a nurse.
Over the years, I have worked in different places and gained many different qualifications. I am a registered degree nurse and a registered midwife, an intensive care nurse, a paediatric counsellor and a clinical instructor.
I was the first girl from our region to be educated. I persisted although it was not easy. But I started a trend in my family as my two brothers are a nurse and a clinical officer and my two children are working as a doctor and a clinical officer.
I took the ETAT+ training and learned the techniques to triage sick patients, how to identify who should be seen first and how to assess them quickly. It is really beneficial because it has changed the culture of following the queue of waiting patients to recognising and prioritising the sick’.
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