‘Nothing inspires me like bringing new life into the world’
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/07/nothing-inspires-me-like-bringing-new-life-into-the-world/
By Alex Taremwa
(NOTE: Story and photos were generated before Uganda’s COVID-19 lockdown.)
Buried deep in the western region Ibanda District is Uganda Christian University (UCU) Nursing Graduate Christine Nimwesiga. A trained nurse and midwife, she deputizes the District Health Officer and has been at it for seven years since she was transferred from Kisoro District.
Ibanda is a district on the verge of a municipality status, but its maternal and infant mortality leaves a lot to be desired.
“When I joined, the district registered about 18 maternal deaths,” Nimwesiga said. “but we have halved that figure to about eight and even those are referrals from outside districts.”
She is not just an administrative person. She is a self-motivated nurse and midwife who gets her hands dirty in the field. In her own words, nothing inspires her like the delivering a newborn, especially being there for that first cry.
Among Nimwesiga’s accomplishments in Ibanda is that 77% of pregnant mothers deliver in hospitals. She achieves this using Village Health Teams (VHTs) and Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) that are trained to encourage hospital-administered deliveries.
However, needs remain. She admits that although 86% pregnant women turn up for the first antenatal check-ups in hospitals, only 46% return for the fourth visit. As a result, cases of severe anaemia and haemorrhages manifest often during birth, some causing maternal deaths.
Documenting the need in 2018, Nimwesiga presented a research paper at the annual Nurses Celebrations. It was titled; “Assessment of adherence to iron and folic supplementation among pregnant women attending ANC.” Her results revealed that pregnant women do not take supplement iron and folic recommended during pregnancy; hence, the anaemia.
As a result, she has developed plans to train nurses on identification of potential complicated births, structured stakeholder meetings in the health sector to adopt interventions that are making Ibanda some kind of a model district.
“I have formed committees at each of the 22 high volume delivery health centres where we monitor, record, follow-up and report on each prenatal, neonatal or postnatal deaths. The results are what inform our interventions,” she said.
Nimwesiga revived the technical support supervision committees that train and mentor health workers on safe delivery, nutrition and baby resuscitation for children born when they can’t breathe and these committee trickle down to Sub-County and Parish levels.
“It was an intentional career development plan,” she said. “Every year, I ensure that we send one nursing officer, two enrolled nurses and two enrolled midwives to school. Now I have a pool of professional staff to pick from. I have even put it in the budget that at least three nurses attend the annual nurses’ celebrations.”
Nimwesiga’s kind of nursing is an evidence-based one. She would rather spend her day researching, publishing and studying on solutions to her people’s problems but she has no financial support for her research. She can neither publish nor go to the field.
“Most funders want to channel their support through universities leaving most of us with valuable field knowledge and access to respondents out. In places like here, we are in a pool of data but a local government will always remain local. We have no funding, no Internet, nothing,” she lamented.
Nimwesiga, age 38, wants to have her PhD by the time she is 45. She will then join academia, grants writing and research and perhaps move close to her family that currently lives over 300kms (186 miles) away in Kisoro.
Nimwesiga holds UCU in a special place in her heart. Not only did she get a promotion after her MA in Nursing, she also has been involved in the Department’s activities and ensures that UCU Nursing graduates get internship and employment places. In the future, she hopes can implement plans to conduct speciality continuous development courses for working graduates.
“Our staffing is at 67% – both medical and support staff,” she said. “Compared with other places, we seem to better off but when you compare with the population of 270,500, we are limping. So I created two positions under me for capacity building and most of these are UCU graduates.”
Nimwesiga has won several scholarships including a 10-day leadership course in South Africa that she began in March. The course was taught in South Africa and only four participants were from Africa, and she is the only Ugandan.
She is grateful to UCU for the opportunities that it gave her a foundation take her to her career by a firm grip. She advises nursing students at UCU to be self-motivated, work passionately and focus on changing the livelihoods of the people in their communities.
“Your actions will sell you. I love my profession. I am a born nurse and it gives me great pleasure to serve my people. It has taken me places,” she concluded.
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