In this first blog, Senior Nursing Officer (SNO) Lt Cdr Karen McCullough, describes the team's arrival and first couple of weeks of the deployment.
"There were times last year building up to this deployment where I thought I would never survive to get out the door due to the frantic nature of preparing for a UN deployment with 6 months notice to move".
But, I can confirm that we made it! I have been in South Sudan for just over 2 weeks and despite the challenges I am relishing every minute of this unique opportunity. We arrived in Juba with all our bags for a quick overnight stay but we were then told we could only carry body armour, helmet and a 6kg day sack to Bentui (our final destination). Our follow on bags would come at a later date (2 weeks later…still waiting). When you pack a sleeping bag, roll mat, mosquito net and wash kit into a day sack there is little room for spare kit, 6 kgs isn’t much but Observation 1- it is amazing how much kit can be packed into body armour.
Arriving in Bentui - our home for the next few months, was eye opening and within minutes everything and everyone was orange from the dust. The UK Camp Bentui is part of a UN compound made up of personnel from Mongolia, Ghana and India. The camp is well set up, but it is important to conserve water which means on amber water days, one shower a day lasting 1 min 15 secs, good thing we are Royal Navy as we do ships showers well! Amber water days are good days, on red days we are not allowed to shower to preserve water.
Now for the good part – the hospital, I was surprised and initially over whelmed by the size of the hospital. The reality of my role really kicked in but it is surprising how quickly you establish a routine and find your feet – albeit on a vertical learning curve. Reflecting on these first few weeks, it has been busier than I expected both from a SNO perspective with all the governance and assurance, IPC, J4 and staffing issues but also from a clinical perspective. The RiP came with its own difficulties as most of our nurses would not arrive until tranche 3 this was a full 10 days after the skeleton team comprising of the heads of departments arrived but we rose to the challenges. The guys did a cracking job that first week and everyone pulled together to ensure that all shifts were effectively covered. Observation 2, ODP’s make great nurses, and I even found myself employed in my own specialism for a day.
The arrival of the whole team (with minimal personal kit) was a welcome sight. We spent the first day dividing out what kit we had to ensure everyone had two sets of MTP to work with then it was straight to work for the guys. It was important to try and get the tranche 3 personnel up to speed quickly on what we had encountered over the previous two weeks, slightly randomly I reflected using J1-9 on lessons learned from my perspective. This will now become regular Sunday afternoon “SNO news is good news” reflective practice on the previous week in terms of ASER’s etc, hopefully it will grow into a type of coaching session in which everyone can contribute their lessons identified throughout the week.
"The Hospital is up and running, the staff are smiling, the Ensign is flying, colours and sunset are being piped, the Royal Navy have the helm".
Lt Cdr Karen McCullough, Senior Nursing Officer (SNO) R2 Hospital Bentui