Our group of four nursing students and three social worker students arrived in Entebbe airport in 20.9.2018 late evening. First impression after all the customs and immigration checkups was two security guards with assault rifles standing outside the main doors of the airport. At least I hope they were security guards. Soon after that our driver picked us up and we drove one-hour drive to capital of Uganda, Kampala where our accommodation and training places were located. Our first week was an orientation week where we learned about local culture, got introduced to our host university which is Clarkes International University, went to a city tour with our local guides, visited our training placements and had a dinner at our host teachers house.
Traffic in Uganda is like from another planet compared to Finland. It seems like there is no rules in traffic at all. Cars are doing extremely dangerous passes and Boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) are speeding between lanes, if the road even has lanes and sometimes they drive on the sidewalk, so you must be alerted every time you are in traffic. It is not a surprise that traffic accidents are common, and a ten-kilometer drive can take two hours because of traffic jams.
We started our working days at eight in the morning, but usually local nurses came half past eight or nine o’clock. Concept of time is little bit more flexible here than in western countries. First thing to do in the morning was to read report books from last evening and night. At the ward family members took care of everything else than medical treatment. It seemed like someone was always sitting on a chair next to their sick relative.
Usually we spent our spare time exploring the city, training at the gym or sitting in a nice local restaurant. We also went for a safari and did some other activities like ziplining and boat cruises at Victoria lake.
Hygiene and aseptics were well known in theoretical level, but sometimes it looked like local nurses didn’t really care about it. For example, they used same cannula multiple times if they couldn’t get it into a vein at first times and gloves were used only for own protection. Of course, lack of equipment is a big problem here, so everything can’t be done as well and safe compared to Finland.
After all Uganda is one of the best places I have ever been. Things are so different here and everyday you see something new or exciting. It’s funny how even poor people here seems to be a lot happier than most of us in Finland. In my opinion we have a lot to learn from an African way of living.
I have been in Kampala for about two months now and still have one more to go. The time here has gone by so fast it feels like it was only few weeks ago that i arrived. The weekdays usually go past with work and maybe going to the gym in the afternoon, and just hanging around getting ready for the next day. On weekends we usually do something like go out in the town or plan activities we could do (like go lay by the pool).
We also had a one week vacation from ”work” and we went on a safari for a few days, wich was honestly greatest thing in here so far. It was a bit pricey but still worth every penny. Our second one week vacation is coming in couple of weeks and we are flying off to zanzibar to relax.
My practical training here is taking place in four different facilities. First two were level 3 Health Centers that offered mainly doctors receptions, I.V. and other medicinal help, small surgical procedures and different clinics. I only spent two weeks in each of them but that time was quite enought to get the hang of both places.
The third and current placement is a level 4 Health Center. There is a lot more to do and see compared to the level 3 H/C. They have all sorts of different wards: Labour, In patient, out patient, post-natal, surgical department and a few more I haven’t been to yet. Most of my time here I have spent in the labour ward and surgical department. Both of wich have been educational as hell.
The fourth facility im going is a privat hospital IHK (International hopsital of Kampala). This hospital is supposed to be quite ”western”, and i’m intrigued to see what is a westers style hospital in the heart of Africa.
The biggest issues so far in my practical placements have been time and the African aseptics. As a finnish person im used to being punctual and going around watching the clock, but nooo that’s not how things are done in here. People come to work around 8 or 9 or 10 or 11, it’s basically up to you. And some days people might just not come to work. This has been the biggest thing for me to learn. And as far as aseptics go, you might imagine that things aren’t done as aseptically correct as back home, be it the lack of resources or education.
For anyone interested to visit Uganda i can highly recommend it. The people are nice and helpful, living is quite cheap and the weather is always warm.
Greetings from Uganda! We’re way past the halfway of our trip. As an experience Uganda has been very all surrounded experience that I can’t really analyze it very deeply in one blog post. We’ve experienced many different things and we still have plenty of those left before coming back to Finland. Some of the experiences have been amazing, incredible and something we only get to experience once in a lifetime. Some experiences have been very rough and they require a lot of processing even after returning to Finland. Whenever I talk to someone in Finland and they ask what’s going on in Uganda, the usual answer is nothing much, just the normal every day life. That is why I’ll be mostly focusing on our every day life in here instead of the adventures we’ve had.
After our orientation week all 11 of us spent four weeks in Mpigi. I think Fanny already covered that in her blog post, so I’ll be telling what’s been happening ever since. Four of us spent our holiday week in Zanzibar (which I can absolutely recommend to anyone, it was absolutely gorgeous and I don’t think I’ve ever been that relaxed), meanwhile others were exploring Uganda through safari, gorilla tracking and visiting Pygmi-village (yes I am serious). After our holiday some of us, me included, came to Kampala. We are living in a small hostel called La’Villa. I’ve been working at China-Uganda Friendship Hospital Naguru. Naguru is a bigger, public hospital. I have been working in antenatal with pregnant women, in postnatal (vaccinating, family planning, postnatal ward, NICU) and now in labour ward. Some days in antenatal there were over 150 mothers a day and at maternity ward there are many people on the same bed and the floors are full of people sleeping on mattresses. The hallways are full of people; pregnant women, accident victims, emergency gyne patients, family members and hospital staff. I think it’s fair to say that maternity as a medical area is a big part of the public health care here.
There are no privacy at the hospitals. At the labour ward in Naguru there are three beds for deliveries and in between there are not even curtains. They suture with hands, sometimes the midwives don’t even use instruments. They are used to cutting episiotomy with a razer blade and without local anesthetics. We see a lot of things here that we would never have seen in Finland. Like our friend Peter always says, “it’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different.” We have witnessed a lot of nurses slapping, yelling or laughing at the patients. The nurses seem to have the power here over the patients and they use it. Ofcourse there are those lovely nurses who really treat the patients nicely as well. Because we witness a lot of rough things here, we can’t take it personally. If we did and didn’t know how to process these things we see, hear and experience, we wouldn’t be able to last the three months in here. Luckily there are those wonderful, positive things every day that keep us happy most of the time. This has been an incredible experience and I gotta tell you, you learn a lot about yourself, your own values and you don’t come back the same person you were when you first came here. Our group has also been absolutely amazing. There are no words to describe Africa and it totally has stolen our hearts.
Our normal day starts with the breakfast. Either we eat at the hostel (bred, an omelette and tea) or we make porrige and coffee. We made this possible by buying water heaters. At 7:30 am the university ride comes to pick us up and takes us to the hospital. But then again, we live in African time so 7:30 am can actually mean 7:30 am or 9 am. “In Africa we have time, we don’t have watches”. One morning it was raining and they just let us know that they’ll pick us up when the rain stops. Even the nurses first came to work once the rain had stopped.
At work we usually have our lunch between 12-13 o’clock. Our lunch break lasts an hour. We either have the local food for lunch, or we buy banana, yogurt or samosa (this local dough triangle with beans or meet inside of it). Our day ends between 14-16 o’clock, depending on where we happen to work. We come home with the university ride (which comes when it comes), with boda bodas (local motorcycles which is very dangerous with the traffics and without a helmet on) or with an Uber-taxi which has been the safest and cheapest way of getting home on time. When it’s dinner time, we mostly eat in our rooms noodles with something. If we’re in the mood for something else, we eat at the hostel or we go somewhere else to eat. We don’t do much in the evenings. We go to the store, buy water or chill together, sometimes with our local friends.
A part of our normal life is also dealing with the Ugandan shillings. One euro is about 3500 shillings. Mostly I don’t do the calculations in my head anymore. After our trip to Zanzibar we had to calculate Tanzanian shillings to euros and those to Ugandan shillings. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky. We’ve also learned how to bargain (but most of us are still very bad at it). The Mzungu-prices are about double to what the locals pay, so you need to know how to get the price down.
I’ve also realized how much we take things for granted in Finland. For example, shower and tap water. In here, a shower means washing ourselves under a small, cold water trip under the shower tap. We carry our water from the stores. We like to buy 18 liter bottles, then pour that one into 5 liter bottles and from those again into 1,5 liter bottles. If we buy cold water, it’s not gonna stay cold for a long time. We do our laundry by hand, mostly in the cold water. We don’t really go anywhere alone and walking in the dark is not safe nor much fun. We haven’t been much sick, but lately seems like we are having more stomach problems than we did before.
Now it’s starting to be colder here. The finnish storms are nothing compared to the ones we have here. We love to watch the lightnings and the storms.
The Ugandan traffic is veeeery trafficy. You go where you can pass. I will never complain about the small bumps on the road in Finland ever again. The Ugandan people are very religious and because there are a lot of muslims in here, we hear a lot of prayer calls. There are a lot of chickens and goats walking free on the streets. We see the poverty everywhere. There are a lot of slum areas and some of us have been able to go and actually do homevisits. We see a lot of people begging for money and selling things on the roads and on the streets. But then there are also those veeery rich people and the contrast is huge. Corruption is also a big problem here.
Most of the Ugandan food is carbs. They eat fish, some chicken and meat. Matoke and Ugali are very common food here and you can get them anywhere. Matoke is a mash made of bananas and Ugali is a mash made of maize flower. Chapati-bread is amazingly good and also those samosas I was writing about earlier. A common street food is a Rolex, which is an omelette wrapped in a chapati. They make this amazing peanut sauce in here as well. You can buy chips from almost anywhere. Cabbage salad and spinach salad are very common as well as peas and beans. We absolutely love the fruits here and I don’t know how we’ll get used to eating the fruits from Finnish stores again.
Part of our every day life in here is dealing with the mosquitos. We sleep under a mosquito net. We (well mostly me) scratch when it itches. There are also other bugs in here. But luckily these mosquitos in here don’t make the noise the ones in Finland do, so it’s not nearly as annoying. And the bites itch for a while but then they stop itching very quickly.
The Ugandan people are amazing. They are so nice, friendly and open minded. It doesn’t matter how poor they are, if you are a guest they give you the last bite of everything they have. The Ugandan children are so happy and even they are very open minded. Sometimes the communication is tricky. Some people speak English with an unclear accent and some mumble a lot. I only dare to ask “what?” so many times. Because sometimes it’s hard for us to understand what Ugandan people are saying and for them to understand our accent, we’ve learned to communicate with just different noises. We’ve also learned the most important words and phrases in Luganda. For me, that mostly means words and phrases that get me through delivery with a mother who doesn’t speak English. Our English has also gotten way worse since we’ve been here, so it might take some work after coming back to Finland to get our English back. We find ourselves using phrases like “even me”, “we move now by the way” as a result of dealing with certain Ugandan people.
So this is what our every day life is like for us. I am sure we will have the biggest culture shock when we return to Finland in a few weeks but until then we are trying to enjoy the last weeks in here.
Greetings from Kampala, Uganda! So far everything is good. I have been living in Uganda as a mzungu (=white person) now for one and a half months. It has been relatively easy to live in here though the traffic is a mess, you have to bargain everywhere and it is very grouded here. English is spoken quite widely and because it is official language here, you can find all the information in English. Even every young child knows how to “greet” in English: bye mzungu and see you mzungu. Mzungu (pronounsed like musungu) has become like a second name.
Kampala city centre.
For the first four weeks I was living in Mpigi village. In Mpigi my practical placement was in Mpigi Health Center IV. I’m studying midwifery so I have been training in Maternity ward that includes labours, antenatal and postnatal care and in Maternal and child health clinic (neuvola). Also I worked some days in HIV clinic and in outpatient clinic to learn more about working culture in here.
Time in Mpigi was very teaching. They are working very hard with very little resources and doing great work. But also there is things that could be done better. Working is disorganised, working tempo is very slow, a nurses are still always soo busy. Also they way of treating patients is disrespectful, for example nurses are often laughing to the patients, talking rudely and there is no kind of privacy.
Midwives have a lot of work, birth rate is very high in here. Also they have no machines and technology to help monitoring the pregnancy. When pregnant mothers come to maternal health clinic they have only few minutes time with midwife. It is mostly it, that midwife does the abdominal palpation to evaluate the gestation time and listenes foetal heart rate with foetal scope. For Finnish midwife to be here is many to learn you wouldn’t learn in modern Finland.
Maternal and child health clinic in Mpigi health center.
Deliveries are also quite something in here. Mothers are rarely monitored during labour and they have to manage the first stage on their own, there is no other pain relief than to deliver. Women are bringing all the equipment, such as gloves, bed covers and sheets, theirselves and fir example c-section can be delayed because of they have first go and buy suturates and catheters… Luckily I have met very friendly and encouraging, often younger, midwives but also I have seen yelling, slapping and pulling the hair during the second stage. Women are still not really complaining. They are so strong and brave in here!
Labour suite in Mpigi health center.
I have also had amazing holiday week exploring Western Uganda with some other students. We saw beautiful countryside of Uganda and learned a lot about life in here. We had safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park and saw lions, buffalos, elephants, hippos and pumbas among others. We were trekking chimpanzees is the Karinju rainforest. We were swimming in Lake Bunyonyi, the only lake to swim here without hippos, crocodiles and bilharzia. And last but definitely not least we met the mountain gorillas in the misty mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Currently I’m working in Naguru Hospital (China Uganda Friendship Hospital) in Kampala. I have just finished my first week there and still have five weeks ahead. So far I can say that there definitely is work for a midwife!
Life here has been good as far. At the beginning I was few weeks in countryside in Mpigi improving my somathic skills and after that I came to see how psychiatric nursing is working in Ugandas only psychiatric hospital – called by national referral mental health hospital Butapika.
In Mpigi I got to familiar with immunization and outreach work. I spent also some days in general ward and hiv clinic as in theater and outpatient department. Time in Mpigi teach me a lot of local daily living. Culture got lightly familiar as also nursing in health center too. Time in Mpigi showed me what kind of is nursing without a lot of machine and equipments. ’Third worlds’ problems was able to see clearly especially in hiv clinic.
Outreach work what I did in Mpigi was happening at evening time after morning shift. We were travelling to more rural areas head to different schools and communities. There we made a lot of immunization as also local nurses tried to do some small prevention against STDs. Days in here might be long and full of work – or not 🙂
My background as a student in Finland is practical nurse and I’ve been working in psychiatric hospital in Finland. In here I made some small compearing between finnish and african way to do psychiatric nursing and also tried to understand how psychiatric and mental health care is running in here. The difference is huge compearing to Finland. Example in psychiatric hospital in here are 500 beds but typically 800- 1000 patients at the same time. In admission ward can be over 100 patients and 2-4 nurses. Psychiatric diseases are same than in Finland instead of epilepsy which is treated in psychiatric hospital also. Working culture is bit different than in Finland and there are just one reason for that.
In my free time I have visited in african seremony, in forrests, laid down on the pool, made a safari in queen Elizabeth national park and had a holiday in Zanzibar. Card games, books and music as a walking has been also a good ways to spend time. Life in here is quite simple and weather is enjoyable.
Now I am looking forward to coming back to Finland. Still I am sure I will visit in this country again and I am gonna miss some things from here. Nature is amazing and somehow I am gonna miss african time which means you are always late a little bit… is it good or not is absolutely other question 🙂
Every day is different and nothing goes as planned and the time as planned. Because of the Marburg-virus I did my practical training also in Kenya. The hospitals in countryside are something so different! People are nice, allways smiling! And yes of course it’s sunny and there are lions in savannah which we saw few weeks ago!