Sophia: A Profile of a Trained Nurse

Sophia: A Profile of a Trained Nurse

Sophia is now the go-to person for family planning and reproductive health services at Rwesande health center IV in western Uganda. {Photo credit: M. Hartley/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Hartley/MSH.

Sophia is a humble woman. She has been working as a nurse for 10 years, and is currently one of five nurses posted at Rwesande health center IV in the hills of western Uganda.

When I arrived I was impressed by the number of services the health center offers, and the general appreciation felt around the compound. Rwesande health center IV has a maternity ward to safely deliver babies; counseling areas for family planning, reproductive health, and HIV; a general ward, a surgery theater, and health education space.

Family planning counseling and services now available

As Sophia shows me her meticulously-kept record books I can see the pride she takes in her work. She explained how women are now coming and asking for family planning services.

Not too long ago clients were not coming, and the nurses didn’t have proper training on methods to offer clients.

Sophia is now the go-to person for family planning and reproductive health services at Rwesande -- partly due to her mild demeanor, but most importantly, because she was trained by STRIDES for Family Health. She now has the skills and ability to counsel and administer basic (pills and injections), long term (implants and IUDs) and permanent (vasectomy and tubal ligation) family planning services.

STRIDES has also trained and mobilized village health teams from the surrounding community to educate people on the benefits of family planning and inform them of where they can safely receive services.

Sophia has seen an increase in demand for family planning services. She explains that women are mostly requesting implants or injections because they are the most reliable methods in their busy lives. Sophia is encouraged by the uptake: in one month, 43 women came for family planning counseling and services -- they go hand in hand.

Ongoing challenges at the health center include "women coming back"

However, she shared some ongoing challenges they face. Husbands, she explains, are still not involved in the family planning choices and some even refuse to let their wives talk to the health workers about their options. Another challenge is getting women to come to follow up appointments. Whether it’s for a check up on their child or the third antenatal visit, the staff don’t always see the women coming back.

A third significant challenge is stock outs, especially of the injections and the implants. When the women come to receive a service, sometimes the health center is out of the supplies or medicine. Sophia tries to counsel the women and explain the overwhelming benefits and when they expect the supplies to arrive, but some women don’t have time to come back --- or don't trust that the medicines will be there --- since they travel long distances to the health centers.

When I asked Sophia for her hopes for the health center, she said she’d appreciate more training. The previous STRIDES training empowered her and her community. She wants to learn more about nutrition because she often sees children who are not eating the proper foods. She also reiterated that they need to have a reliable stock of supplies so they can offer these life-saving and life-changing services.

Sophia is saving lives at Rwesande health center IV. Previously, nurses could not provide these services and care, but with task shifting and support from STRIDES, Sophia is making a difference in her community.

Margaret Hartley, knowledge exchange associate at MSH, was awarded the Gadue-Niebling-Urdaneta (GNU) Memorial Fellowship. She traveled to Uganda for four weeks, visiting local health centers and NGOs to meet with organizations MSH serves.

STRIDES for Family Health, a USAID funded program in Uganda --- led by MSH in partnership with JhpiegoMeridian International, and Communication for Development Foundation ---  works with the Ministry of Health, districts, their communities, local private organizations, and individual private providers in 15 districts to increase contraceptive use and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, decrease maternal and child mortality, and create a scalable nationwide intervention by the year 2014.

Editor’s note: MSH established the Gadue-Niebling-Urdaneta (GNU) Memorial Fund in memory of Cristi Gadue, Amy Lynn Niebling, and Carmen Urdaneta, to further the work to which these remarkable women dedicated their lives. Each year, the GNU Fellowship provides two MSH employees based in the US and globally with an international public health opportunity at another MSH location.