Today we are in Pallisa. Pallisa is a small town, probably smaller than Soroti, and we had to take a one-lane dirt road to get here. Not the worst road in Uganda, by any means. We drove past probably a thousand children walking to school.
The survey went smoother than the first time. I actually feel sort of comfortable in the hospital, surrounded by illness, but somewhat secure. Not untouchable, but grounded, connected to Uganda and life here in a whole new way. I always knew I wasn’t going to be a doctor because I hate hospitals. And actually, a lot of blood kind of makes me queasy. But I think I see now how easy it is to take this place of illness and turn it into a home away from home.
I’ve learned a lot about health on this trip. I’ve learned about rural problems with traditional healers prescribing their own “cures” to tuberculosis and AIDS which is part of the reason patients “get lost” or stop adhering to their medication. I’ve also realized that while there’s a lot of work to do on my end, the trainer end, there’s so much to do for health workers. The motivations of these health workers, from their own words, are to “save lives, help patients, and because I’m on duty,” or to fulfill obligations. The last one is the one that really struck me; the idea that if a nurse or lab technician doesn’t come to work, no one will do their work, and even though they run into horrible restraints, like power outages, lack of medicines, and lack of equipment, they keep showing up. I’m impressed by this motivation. Sometimes showing up does more than we think.
The survey results, while preliminary, do show this dedication. Health workers are practically screaming for additional training opportunities, ones that acknowledge their busy schedules but provide real hands on support. It’s a bit of a catch-22. They need and want continuing medical education, but they also need and want to stay at work each day. Hopefully that’s where distance learning comes in.