Norfolk nurse visits Ethiopia to share expertise and improve end of life care

Categories: Education.

Sue works at the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust’s Priscilla Bacon Centre, which is ‘twinned’ with Hospice Ethiopia.

The twinning was set up in 2011 to make it easier for staff to share best practice, enable patients to receive high quality care and support Hospice Ethiopia in raising awareness of palliative care among professionals and the public.

The visit was the second time Sue and Jamie had been to Ethiopia. 

During their time in the country they learnt about the care delivered by Hospice Ethiopia by visiting patients with illnesses such as AIDS and cancer in their own homes. The couple were also able to make recommendations and offer training to further improve the care provided by their African colleagues, while also learning more about conditions such as HIV.

Sue said: “The enduring memory of our visit to Hospice Ethiopia is the overwhelming welcome and hospitality that we received from all the staff during our entire visit. They were keen to listen and learn, and were always very patient with us.

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet patients in their own homes, and we were there long enough to see them several times, which meant we could build up a good rapport. It made it hard when we came back to the UK as they told us they were sad to see us go and gave us gifts, which was very humbling as they have so little.”

Sue and Jamie spent a lot of time teaching during their visit, which they funded themselves, and delivered sessions to both clinicians and medical educators, who will then pass their knowledge onto others.

Sue explained: “We spent a lot of time working on communication skills, as whether you’re in Norfolk or Ethiopia, patients reaching the end of their lives will ask the same questions, so giving staff the skills they need to provide answers is really important.

“While what we did was a drop in the ocean, hopefully all those drops will add up and result in better end of life care for patients in the future.”

“It was very interesting and rewarding, and although we went out there to teach the doctors and nurses, we ended up learning a lot ourselves as well,” added Sue, who took a three-month unpaid sabbatical to complete the visit and hopes to return to Ethiopia in the future.

“It gave us the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of palliative care needs in a resource-poor country, while our knowledge of managing the terminal phases of conditions such as HIV and AIDS has developed enormously, which in turn will help us deliver better care back home in Norfolk.

“We feel privileged to have been able to assist the nurses at Hospice Ethiopia in the remarkable work they are doing to improve the symptoms of the terminally ill with limited resources. The experience also helped us put into perspective the work we do in the UK and made us realise what we take for granted in our day to day work, such as immediate access to emergency services, radiotherapy and investigations. 

“We are also grateful for the support of our colleagues, without which we would have been unable to leave our UK jobs for this length of time.”

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