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We asked Ugandan nurse Betty why she loves her job – this is what she said

Nurse Betty Lamwaka works at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda. Here she shares her experiences of working in a neonatal intensive care unit and how support from volunteer Gerieke Zandberg has improved care for neonates.

Ugandan nurse Betty Lamwaka at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital © Peter Caton

Ugandan nurse Betty Lamwaka at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital

“I basically grew up on a hospital ward. My sister was my role model and she was a nurse. I loved that work so much.

"I love helping patients. I love my job because I chose this for myself and I do it from my heart.  I love it most when I work with a patient and they get cured and go home. That makes me so happy.

"As a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, I admit babies when they come in and give them treatment."

Helping babies struggling to breathe

"One of the most important treatments for a neonate is oxygen therapy when they have difficulties breathing. Most of the babies in the unit have birth asphyxia; when something happens at the time of birth and they get less oxygen.

"As well as oxygen, we also give them antibiotics like ampicillin. We give fluids because if they are very young they won’t be able to suckle well. We observe them and monitor them closely on things like their temperature, their respiratory rate, and their heart rate and oxygen saturation."

Improving skills

"I’ve been working with VSO volunteer Gerieke. I’ve learnt a lot from her. She likes being with babies and she likes our work. She shows us things like how to give treatment in the correct time or how to give an enema. I didn’t know how to do that on babies before.

"We have learned that if babies have hypothermia - when their temperature is very low - that we can put them in the incubator and after time they get better. It really helps when mothers have had a C-section, as they can’t hold them.

"Before VSO was here we didn’t have a working neonatal intensive care unit. It’s only been running for six or seven months. We have new equipment and the volunteers are mentoring us on how to use them.  We now have a chance to work with new incubators phototherapy machines, warmers and resuscitation equipment like ambu-bags. We have to use it almost on a daily basis.  It saves lives."

Ugandan nurse Betty with volunteer Gerieke © Peter Caton

Betty with volunteer Gerieke Zandberg

Numerous challenges

"There are challenges. At night you are alone and it can be hectic. If two babies need to be resuscitated you can’t do both at once. I have to prioritise the most severe one. I have to decide which baby will survive sometimes. I feel bad not being able to help all the children.

"All us nurses try our best. We use what we have learnt at school but volunteers like Gerieke or the previous volunteer Dr Aisling Walsh have added more.

"All over Uganda, I want nurses and midwives to join hands and work with a mother right from when she is pregnant. We should put more emphasis on that so we can detect which babies might come out early. This will help us prevent babies from dying."

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