Sunday, 31 July 2011

AfrOx’s Cancer Nurse Training Programme in Ghana

Through the AfrOx Cancer Nurse Training Programme, AfrOx aims to provide training for nurses in Malawi, Ghana and Uganda.  Stewart Kerr, Project Manager, AfrOx, tells us more about the first nurse training workshop in Ghana ….

Nurses have an essential role in the provision of cancer care in Africa and they work tirelessly to look after their patients.  Cancer nurses in Africa are front line care givers: they administer drugs, communicate with the patients and their families, change dressings and help maintain the dignity of the patient throughout their treatment or until they pass away.  However, these cancer nurses are often overworked, poorly paid and have low social status; and they have few career development opportunities.  

A critical problem is that in countries like Ghana, Uganda and Malawi, there is no specialist training available for cancer nurses.  This year, working in collaboration with the University of Warwick, medical training schools, and ministries of health, AfrOx’s aim is to provide training for 100 nurses involved in cancer care in Ghana, Uganda and Malawi and to provide a free online training programme that will be of benefit to cancer nurses across Africa.

The first training workshop took place in Malawi in May (click here to learn more), and this month, we held the first workshop in Ghana at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi.  We took out a team of three volunteers Sally Campalani, Caitlin McCoy, and Fiona Young, who are full time oncology nurses based in the UK with a vast wealth of experience in oncology nursing and training of nurses new to oncology. 

The local faculty leaders included Dr Awauh (Medical Director of KATH), Dr Osei Obonsu (Medical Oncologist at KATH), Mrs Patience Ampong (Director of Nursing Services KATH), Mrs Sekyere and Mrs Antwi (both oncology nurses, KATH). 

Thirty, handpicked Ghanaian nurses who work with cancer patients in their day to day duties attended the workshop, dressed rather splendidly in there smart uniforms with fabulous nursing caps which reminded me of pictures I have seen of nurses from the UK in 1950s, which put me to shame dressed in my shorts and flip-flops.

Sally, Caitlin and Fiona worked together with the talented local faculty to run the training workshop.  The team covered a range of subjects, including how to communicate with oncology patients, the basic biology of cancer, an explanation of the treatments available in Ghana (Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy and Surgery), administration and side effects of the treatments, signs and symptoms of cancer and advocacy.  One question that arose during the workshop was that some nurses feared that after patients had gone through radiotherapy, they were radioactive and they were thus reluctant to touch them for 24 hours after their treatment.  The faculty explained how radiotherapy worked and helped to dispel this myth and encouraged these nurses that it would be safe to continue to care and tend to their patients after radiotherapy.

In the session on advocacy, when we were talking about how to raise awareness of cancer in the community, we found that a majority of the nurses at some point or another had talked with women in their community or at their church about the signs and symptoms of cancer - especially breast and cervical.  They also run a small palliative care outreach programme, where they go to the homes of terminally ill cancer patients and teach their families how to care for them and administer pain relief. I was impressed to learn that they carry out this service voluntarily, out of a feeling of duty towards their patients, usually without their transport costs or overtime being paid for.  Thus, for this reason it is confined to Central Kumasi.

The training workshop was very successful, with 100% of the nurses stating in their post evaluation questionnaire that they would change their day-to-day clinical practice in the treatment of cancer patients.  We were impressed by the hard-working cancer nurses and the inspiring leadership team at KATH who are both committed to providing good cancer care for their patients.  As a long-term objective of this programme, we are hoping to set up a formal partnership to provide longer-term mentoring and training; and to support efforts in Ghana to set up a post-graduate specialist cancer nurse training course.

Please check this blog regularly for progress updates.

If you would like to donate to support AfrOx’s work, please click here.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Supporting Childhood Cancer Care through MedicineAfrica

Georgina Newman, intern at Afrox, tells us about the new project she’s been working on to set up an innovative link between two paediatric oncology units, one based in Edinburgh, the other in Ghana…

As part of its strategy to improve cancer care in Ghana, AfrOx together with World Child Cancer, are supporting a twinning project between the paediatric oncology unit of The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and the paediatric oncology unit of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra. Currently, professionals from Edinburgh travel to Ghana twice a year to deliver workshops that cover a range of issues chosen by the Ghanaian professionals. Unfortunately, there is little opportunity for contact between the teams between the workshops, which is where the innovative website, MedicineAfrica, and my internship come in.

MedicineAfrica is a new website that allows healthcare professionals to give online tutorials to professionals or students in a totally different area. It was originally pioneered in Somaliland and the UK where British psychiatrists gave newly qualified doctors in Somaliland tutorials in mental health and psychiatric care. Because Somaliland has very few experienced doctors and no psychiatrists at all, MedicineAfrica is helping fill a gap in the continual professional development of Somaliland’s new generation of junior doctors. By doing this, MedicineAfrica hopes to increase their motivation and to slow the brain drain.

During my internship, I have been facilitating a link between the Edinburgh and Ghana teams using MedicineAfrica. This involved travelling to Edinburgh in June to teach the Edinburgh team how to use the website. It was the first time I had met the doctors and nurses from Edinburgh; they were lovely and really enthusiastic about the whole project, asking intelligent and perceptive questions about the twinning project. The morning was spent discussing the project and how to take it further and in the afternoon, I taught them how to use MedicineAfrica. During the two hours we spent together, we created medical case studies, tutorials, PowerPoint presentations and gave sample tutorials. Despite the Edinburgh team’s initial wariness of the website, internet breakages, and moments of utter confusion, the team left the session feeling much more confident using the website than they had done previously. 

In July, I then travelled to Ghana to meet the team at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to teach them how to use the website and attempt the first online tutorial between the Edinburgh and Ghana teams. Please read my next post to see how the training in Ghana went..