independent

Sunday 22 September 2019

Katie part of ground-breaking healthcare training

Katie Sheehan (back row, second right) from Charleville, who is the director of nursing at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital with the team of volunteers and trainees from the ‘Learning for Lives - Ghana’ mission
Katie Sheehan (back row, second right) from Charleville, who is the director of nursing at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital with the team of volunteers and trainees from the ‘Learning for Lives - Ghana’ mission

Bill Browne

A nurse from Charleville has spoken about her involvement in a ground-breaking initiative aimed at radically improving the standard of healthcare in one of Africa's most poverty stricken regions.

Katie Sheehan was part of a group of volunteers that recently completed a three-year initiative to establish a programme of emergency care skills training for workers in community healthcare facilities and hospitals in the remote upper western region of Ghana.  The 11-strong team from the University of Limerick (UL) and the UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) recently returned from Africa having completed the 'Learning for Lives - Ghana' (LfL - Ghana) project. 

Katie said the project, a collaboration between RLHG and UL' Graduate Entry Medical School & Paramedics Studies programme in partnership with the Ghanaian health service had surpassed its initial goal of minimising easily preventable deaths through the provision of basic pre-hospital emergency care skills. 

Since 2016 the LfL- Ghana volunteers have helped train almost 250 community workers and hospital staff in basic life-saving skills and delivered specialist instruction across a variety of themes including hand hygiene, sepsis, physiotherapy, nutrition and neonatal care.  Katie, who is the assistant director of nursing at the Croom Orthopaedic Hospital said she was unprepared for the speed with which the local workers took charge of the training programme. 

This was in no small measure to the 'Train The Trainer' element of the programme, which created a team of 30 specialist local instructors, including eight 'Super Trainers'. Katie said this has ensured continuity and sustainability of training, "paving the way for a positive transformation of healthcare standards for one million residents" in communities throughout region.  "I never thought we would get quite so far, so soon. The eight Super Trainers have made a huge difference.

They were delivering programmes and supervising trainees with only minimal input from us. We independently validated their testing, and our marks were identical to theirs," she explained.  "The medical training needs in Ghana are immense, and the biggest challenge will be prioritizing these needs. However, the potential for improvement is limitless," she added. 

One of the Ghanaian trainees, Elenaora, said the programme had been a great experience.  "We have learned a lot, and we intend to put into practice all we have learned in taking care of and providing social care to our clients," she said.

Katie said the ultimate vindication of the LfL - Ghana mission was the "sense of ownership" it had instilled within the local community, which she said was one of the key objectives of the initiative.  Indeed, within days of the LfL Ghana team returning home to Ireland the local Community-based Health Planning & Services (CHPS) was inundated with requests for additional training.  "The team is now focussed on the future as we prepare our final report and make the case for extending ancillary programmes in nutrition, paediatrics, neonatal care and physiotherapy," said Katie.

Corkman

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