Member Voices: Sheila Mair

This month, with World Humanitarian Day marked on 19th August, we’re celebrating our members and the teams they work alongside all over the world. 

“It has been interesting to find that although I am not working under emergency conditions, some of the knowledge I gained through courses with UK-Med has been very useful.” 

Nurse and UK-Med member Sheila Mair shares the experiences that volunteering for UK-Med has opened up for her. 

I am writing this from Uganda and while I am not here with UK-Med it really is as a result of my involvement with the organisation. 

It all started when I became aware of the work of UK-Med during the Ebola outbreak and I applied to join. I was working as a gastroenterology nurse practitioner and felt that I would like another different challenge in my nursing career. In the past I had worked for very short spells in Peru and Tanzania but had never done any “emergency” work.  I survived and really enjoyed the deployment course. I have since completed other courses with UK-Med and have always found them to be of a really high standard. 

I have been registered with UK-Med since 2017 and have been on call at least once a year since then.  I had retired from full-time NHS work in 2015 but continued to working on the nurse bank for enough hours to maintain my registration.  I was therefore free to do something that might be helpful for any future deployment, as there is not perhaps such a huge demand for a gastroenterology nurse practitioner in an emergency!  

And so I undertook the Diploma in Tropical Nursing at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. It was an amazing course and left me feeling inspired to try to find a way of using some of my newly acquired knowledge. So it was that which took me here to Uganda. I have been based at a university campus in Mbale for the past 5 weeks helping the faculty deliver a Bachelor in Nursing course. I spend time with students on the wards and in the emergency department, as well as more formal teaching in the classroom.  

It has been interesting to find that although I am not working under emergency conditions, some of the knowledge I gained through courses with UK-Med has been very useful. The nutrition in emergencies course has been of particular benefit. Nutrition is a big concern here with babies, children and pregnant women all at risk of malnutrition. UK-Med courses also provide an insight generally into the problems that are faced in lower and middle income countries. Gender discrimination issues, patchy health care provision and problems related to poverty are all evident here. 

I am very lucky that my husband is very supportive of me and understands how much this work means to me. My children are supportive too, as are most of my friends, although I do think some of them think I should retire properly. But why would I do that when I can do this? 

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