My name is Lydia Ssenyonga. I came to UCT in 2010 to to study for a Post Graduate Diploma in Child Nursing. When I returned to my place of work I was promoted to Assistant Nursing Manager. More is expected of me now that I have a qualification from UCT. I have more to offer too. One of the first things I did was to look at our practice. I requested the Child Nurse Practice Development Initiative (CNPDI) to come and look at practice at CURE Hospital and see what is good and what could be better. They helped us to track our patients and their flow through the hospital. It has helped us change the system and make it more patient friendly. The team from CNPDI made our practice visible to us so we could streamline it and make it better. Now patients arrive with us quickly, instead of taking a day to arrive from outpatients. It’s better for the patients and the nurses are much happier too.
I feared to go back into clinical practice after I completed my studies. I loved learning and I thought I would never be able to touch a book again. But now I know that clinical practice is an avenue to do more studies. I undertook a Masters in Nursing at UCT between 2012 – 2014.
During that time there’s been a lot of support from UCT and CNPDI. The CNPDI followed me up, which is important for someone like me coming from a country with few resources. My promotion took me into a leadership role. As Assistant Nurse manager I am in charge of training nurses at CURE Hospital, a unique paediatric neurosurgical hospital which receives referrals for specialist surgeries from a very large part of the African region. Then the Minster of Health appointed me to represent universities on the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examination Board. Instead of being excited I was scared. But I have been able to call on Prof. Minette (Coetzee) who reassured me that this was a very good step forwards. Support is there for me whenever I need it. I can speak about challenges at work, goals, how to work out conflicts in the context of my leadership role, all sorts of new things. The support that I have had has been incredible.
At the moment, paediatric nursing is not well recognized in Uganda. Most nurses in Uganda are registered nurses, and there is only one centre that teaches a post graduate diploma paediatric nursing - but not at the advanced level that UCT teaches. Uganda graduates very few paediatric nurses each year – sometimes only one or two. We need to start developing paediatric nursing training for Uganda. There is an African Paediatric Fellowships Programme scholarship and I have been asked to nominate some nurses to come and train as child nurses. I am praying that one day we can build capacity because I can only do so much as one person, with a family of my own.