Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Never in the NHS

 May 2013 marks my first year working as a nurse in Guinebor, Chad. I knew that nursing here would be markedly different from working in the NHS, but there have been some days, at the end of which, I’ve looked back and realised that never in the NHS did I do that. Here are just some of those things….

  • -          Conducting ward rounds in a minimum of 2, but at times, up to 4 languages! French to Arabic, Arabic to another tribal language, such as Kanembu and when there have been visiting doctors with no French, English has been thrown into the mix too. This not only takes up a lot of time, but assessing and even asking the simplest of questions can have rather confusing, if not bemusing results!

  • -          Battling with the local wildlife; chasing chickens and lizards from the wards and stemming the influx of flies and mosquitoes with the aid of sticky paper and nets.


  • Sweating like I have never sweated before (disgusting I know, but it’s true, it’s a new experience of nursing here!). While assisting in operations, I’ve had sweat drop off my eyelids each time I blinked, collected in the face mask so when I remove it a little waterfall fall and gathered in the sleeves of the water proof gown so that each time I’ve moved my arm I have felt a little sloshing sensation!!!

  • -          On a more serious note, working here is allowing me to learn new skills that I would not have had the opportunity to do at home, such as giving anaesthetics and learning how to plan, budget and implement new programmes of care.

  • -          Problem solving is a key skill for any nurse and here where resources are more limited, it is a skill called upon more often with greater creativity required. For example, devising a way to link oxygen tubing to deliver oxygen to 2 babies from one oxygen concentrator at the same time, constructing traction with water or oil cans with string and well placed groove in the bed, or making a stoma bag with the aid of a plastic bag and a lid of a tin of oats.

  • -          Taking on complete new professions, such as generator technician, gardener, anaesthetist, an AA worker, called upon to pull out stuck vehicles in the wet season


  • Pumping water from the hand powered  village well in the dark to fill any water container I and my colleagues could lay our hands on to ensure that the hospital still has water available when the generator or water tower breaks

  • -          Unpacking boxes and boxes of medical supplies from 2 huge shipping containers

  • -          Trying to do a drug round with the aid of a mobile phone light only- it is quite a challenge it see and assess the patient as well as find the prescription, find and dispense the drugs and write all with one hand! Thankfully the arrival of solar means this is no longer such a problem.
  • Opening my fridge at home to find boxes of drugs and a bag of blood on the shelf below my marmite and chocolate as my fridge temporarily takes on the role as the hospital pharmacy fridge while the proper pharmacy fridge is fixed to desperately try to get the internal temperature below 20C!

There have been many more moments when I’ve taken a step back and just seen the bizarre or funny situation I have found myself in, and no doubt there are still many more to come, but I like those moments. Moments when I appreciate the opportunities I have here, that are just a little out of the ordinary!

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