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A Registered Nurse’s Dispatch from Uganda

In honor of World Health Worker Week 2018, health workers from around the world are telling us what it's really like on the front lines.

This week, we’re featuring personal stories from frontline health workers all over the world. It’s just one of the ways we’re celebrating World Health Worker Week 2018.

Today’s post features Samalie Kitoleko, a registered nurse who’s using her story to advocate for policy changes that help the people in her community and in others like it.

Learn more about what she's been able to accomplish in the video above and read her inspiring story below.

A registered nurse in Uganda

One day I went to a community to look for a young girl who was nine years—she had heart disease and had not come to the hospital to follow up.

When I found her parents, they told me they did not feel that medicine would help her. They were just waiting for her to die.

So I shared with them the story of a patient, a little girl whom I lost simply because she was not coming for follow-up and her family did not have the information they needed.

The girl’s parents were touched, and sent her back for her medication. We got her a sponsorship for open-heart surgery, and she was operated on, and now she is doing fine.

When I shared my story of the little girl I lost with the administrators where I work, they began to see that these patients often don’t have enough information. I tell them I need time to go out and teach these patients what they need to know. Because the information we read in books regarding diseases, it's not for us. It’s for the patients who are living with those illnesses. They are the ones who need that information, and it's our obligation to give it to them.

“They did not feel that medicine would help her. They were just waiting for her to die.”

So the hospital administrators voted to give me more time to sit down with patients and educate them on matters regarding their health.

And other institutions are changing their policies, too.

When I shared my story with administrators and managers at Uganda Heart Institute, they were able to change their policies on the care of patients with multiple disease. And at Mulago hospital, I was able to advocate for patients with multiple diseases who do not have any money, because having to pay each time they come to hospital can push them to stay home and not seek care—so the hospital now waives their consultation fees.

When I was sponsored by Medtronic Foundation and IntraHealth International last year to attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, I was awarded as a Heroine of Health Care for my outstanding performance in the promotion of lives of young women. When I came back home, I felt like I should double my efforts.

Advocacy for storytelling is important. When you sit down and listen to somebody's story, you get the real emotions about how a patient feels physically, socially.

My advice to policy-makers is that, before you make policies, do not just read about the diseases. Come and listen to the patients. Listen to the nurses and other frontline health workers who are in touch with these patients, who know what they go through day after day.

And my advice to others in sharing their voices to create change is that you should not fear. Come out and say whatever you feel, assertively, so that you can be heard.

Read more posts in this series. Watch Samalie's video and others like it. And join the conversation online: #HealthWorkersCount #WHWWeek

This storytelling initiative is a collaboration of IntraHealth International and Medtronic Foundation.