Clinician Profile: Sisters Christina, Lilian, and Victoria 10.08.2016

CCBRT DH Nurses Join MH Capacity Building Team

At CCBRT’s Disability Hospital, nurses Christina Baluhya, Lilian Salvatory, and Victoria Kirway treat patients with disabilities - but now they hope to prevent them altogether.

The trio joined CCBRT’s team in 2009. Christina and Victoria are ophthalmologic nurses and Lilian works in the orthopaedic ward. Recognising their excellent care delivery, a senior member of the nursing staff approached them in 2013 with a proposal: CCBRT would support one year of paediatric nursing training at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town if, when they returned, they would join CCBRT’s Maternal and Newborn Health Capacity Building Programme and the nursing staff at CCBRT’s Maternity & Newborn Hospital upon its opening in early 2018.

The three nurses accepted and packed their bags for South Africa in early 2014. Sister Victoria was impressed by her host hospital’s facilities, exclusively dedicated to neonatal care. Lilian and Christina shared her excitement, though both also noted that it was difficult to get used to the freezing Cape Town winter!

Upon returning to Dar es Salaam in December 2014, the Sisters were keen to implement their news skills: “When I came back, I needed to put the knowledge I had learned into practice,” Victoria asserted. They resumed their work 4 days a week as deputy in-charge nurses in DH’s eye and orthopaedic wards, and, with their expanded maternal and newborn health role, took on 1 day a week at CCBRT’s MH Capacity Building Programme partner sites across the city. This model allowed the nurses to hone their skills and serve the greater community, all while investing in human resources of the future Maternal Hospital.

The sisters are already integrating what they’ve learned in partner sites. Last Friday, while working in Temeke Municipal Hospital, Christina encountered a newborn with abnormal eye discharge. “I had been taught that this was a warning sign of bacterial infection,” Christina remembered. “I immediately recommended an aggressive course of treatment for the baby and made sure the mother was not discharged, as it was likely that she was also infected”. Lab tests confirmed her assessment and the mother was put on antibiotics. She credits her training with paediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Chris in Cape Town for preparing her with knowledge and confidence on the case.

Years of hands on experience treating patients with disabilities at CCBRT’s Disability Hospital has provided the nurses with a heightened awareness of how complicated deliveries impact the rest of the baby’s life. “When managing a difficult case like neonatal asphyxia [when a baby is not getting oxygen], you have one minute to prevent disabilities like cerebral palsy,” Lilian remarked. “If you give good care to the baby, you stop it right there”.

When asked about their hopes for the Maternity & Newborn Hospital, Lilian, Victoria, and Christina share a goal, “We want to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality!” They know how to make it a reality: combine education and preventative medicine. Christina emphasised the importance of involving local communities in grassroots education campaigns. “If the mothers were encouraged by their communities to go to the hospital early, that would definitely help,” she said. Victoria harped the need for early intervention. She noted, “There are some cases where if the mother had been in the hospital before labour, we could have caught the complication and prevented a hard delivery”. Lilian echoed their recommendations, adding that continuing education for neonatal nurses on danger signs in pregnancy like eclampsia, anaemia, and STDs is crucial. “Realise there are things you can do before it escalates to the worst point. There are things you can prevent,” encouraged Victoria.

Looking forward, the nurses are excited to work in the brand new facilities at MH and are eager to enrol in more training so they can carry on the Capacity Building programme’s comprehensive work to strengthen maternal and newborn health in Dar es Salaam.

To learn more about our work in maternal and newborn health, click here.