Reflections from a new USHAPE volunteer

On 4th November we were very proud to see the graduation of all students of the level 2 USHAPE course. This year’s course was led by Sarah (Sexual and Reproductive Health dept BCH), myself, Ceri and Dr Sue Mann our visiting specialist. (Sue works in London as a Consultant in Reproductive Health).

This was my first time assisting with USHAPE as a UK volunteer and much of the experience was new to me.

The course venue was the UNSB nursing school and we welcomed 13 diploma nursing students who were keen to further their knowledge in family planning. Many thanks are extended to the school who also provided tea and chapati as refreshments to the group!

 On a beautifully sunny Monday, we began our day at 8am attending morning prayers and communications at the hospital before a short walk past a backdrop of deep green mountains and banana trees as we headed down to the nursing school to begin.

Day 1 began with fun game introduced by Sarah:  as an ice breaker for the group we all stood up. Sarah called out a number between 1-10 and were encouraged to all run into groups of that size. Suffice to say it did the trick completely, and words don’t really do it justice..! 

We began in earnest with Sue and Sarah leading an interactive session on reproductive anatomy- we were all very impressed by the level of knowledge displayed by the group at this point. This session was followed up with a talk about the informal names for parts of the body in rukiga (the local language) to much shyness and giggling!

The anatomy sessions then were followed with reproductive physiology and the menstrual cycle which laid the foundations for talking about the main contraceptive methods available-  Sue began by discussing male and female sterilisation and the pros and cons of each method.

 Monday to Thursday involved interactive sessions covering male and female condoms, implants and injectables, the POP and COCP oral methods, natural methods (breastfeeding and cycle method) and emergency contraception. For each method we focused on the efficacy, pros and cons, including a few supplementary videos during break tea. 

Throughout the course we focused on consultation skills with several role-play activities followed by constructive feedback by facilitators and peers – this was designed to encourage candidates to think about applying their knowledge to help real clients- I found these sessions were a lot of fun and the learning really was two-way: feedback from the Ugandan candidates really helped me appreciate the issues which they expected to face.

On Wednesday we explored ‘sensitive scenarios’ and discussed counselling strategies in patients who may have experienced the effects of gender based violence, the group all contributed a great deal to this session.

Thursday was based in the Sexual and reproductive health department in BCH and was more focused on practical skills: the group had already practiced with models and role-plays earlier in the week, this was now their chance to learn first hand how to counsel real clients and apply an implant. The day also included a session with Sarah, sitting in during real cervical screening clinics. 

Friday was the assessment day- we started with a quiz (which became highly competitive towards the end!), and was followed by a talk led by Haeven (the public health officer) about how to educate a community with engaging public speaking. After this instruction the groups were all assigned topics to present on- these coupled with the MCQ formed their final mark. I’m pleased to report everyone passed, and we were able to invite the group celebrate at the guesthouse (with many thanks to the guesthouse staff) for dinner and some graduation speeches! 

I think we all learned a great deal from each other during the week and I felt that a lot of fun was had along the way- we concluded by wishing the group good luck in their role as future providers of family planning services in Uganda

Special thanks go to Sue who flew out all the way from the UK to participate, Ceri who put in an immense amount of preparation beforehand (and covered the wards and OPD during a busy week) and Sarah who was brilliant.

Dr Leo Coyle, RCGP/USHAPE volunteer

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