Gordana Dermody, MSN, RN, CNL, special projects coordinator for OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and faculty member at Saint Anthony College of Nursing, recently returned from a two-week humanitarian trip to Uganda, during which she used her expertise as a registered nurse and clinical nurse leader to educate and empower nurses at a Catholic, mission-based hospital in Angal, Uganda.
Dermody qualified for a vocational training grant through the Rockford Rotary Club that allowed her to take part in the humanitarian trip alongside a group of physicians, one other nurse, trauma counselors and librarians. The group worked with community leaders, including Rotarians from Gaba, the King of the Alur Kingdom, the prime minister and other local government officials in the Nebbi District, to provide support for the village’s health care needs, trauma counseling, literacy, sustainable agriculture and nutrition needs, with the ultimate goal of encouraging a stronger emphasis on the primary and secondary education of girls.
Dermody’s primary role was to assess the current state of health care services provided by Saint Luke's Hospital in the small town of Angal, which is situated in the Nebbi District in the West-Nile region. Through a partnership with the hospital's nursing administration and medical director, Dermody developed an action plan focusing on continued improvement of patient outcomes, particularly decreasing infant and maternal mortality rates and infection prevention.
“The state of lacking available health care resources in Angal was shocking at first,” said Dermody. "However, the continued dedication of the nursing staff amidst lack of resources, including a limited number of physicians, was admirable."
At the 260-bed hospital, Dermody and her team encountered the same challenges nurses and physicians face on a daily basis. Some of the needs identified included clean water, structural repairs, simple diagnostic equipment and educational resources for medical staff.
Dermody and her team also learned that cultural barriers made it difficult for nurses to improve patient care. Through a partnership with Hilda Tadria, director of Mentoring and Empowerment Programme for Young Women (MEMPROW), local nurses received special sessions of empowerment training. The goal was to emancipate local nurses with the hope of creating transformational change in rural health care settings.
Dermody and other members of the medical team have been invited back by the hospital’s administration to continue their partnership aimed at the transformation of health care at Saint Luke's in Angal. The team is planning a follow-up trip to Angal in February 2015 to continue the work they started.
In addition, Dermody has continued her partnership with MEMPROW by networking with nurses in the Rockford region to encourage them to contribute financially toward the education of Ugandan girls who wish to become nurses.