June 7, 2019

Sister Phyllis

The district hospital training program we started in Kenya in 2013 seemed to be going well. As part of the work of Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, we came up with a program of ultrasound training in rural Kenya. In exchange for sending two providers for the 3 days of training, each facility receives an ultrasound machine for its use. The program has been popular though not easy for our trainees. We ask a lot of those who attend. By the end of their training, they are expected to perform studies accurately or risk losing their machines. We have been quite diligent about checking their progress. The attendees undergo written and skill assessments at each conference. We also make yearly rounds to their facilities to see how they are using the machines.

I will be honest and say that I had my doubts about Sister Phyllis. She attended 2 trainings but her skills were not progressing. She didn’t seem to be interested. In the program we have made a point of empowering nurses and other staff trainees to make use of their new diagnostic skills, but I wondered if Sister Phyllis would assume that responsibility.

Last May we visited Sister Phyllis’ hospital, St. Anthony Health Centre in Abosse. We routinely ask the trainees to perform several studies for our review. When Sister Phyllis picked up that probe, I have to say that I wasn’t expecting much. My surprise had to be apparent. She nailed it. She was a pro in every regard – from machine use, to performing the scans, to making spot-on assessments. I was thrilled. She wasn’t the only one who I discovered had quietly become a master of their machine. But it was Sister Phyllis who left the biggest impression on me.


She asked me to convey her appreciation to those who had donated the machines and gave me a card signed by the patron of the hospital. She made it clear why she as so appreciative. She said that using ultrasound allowed her to provide her patients better care. She said she was inspired to be a better nurse because she was now able to help her patients in ways that she had not been before.

The program is humming along. We have trained people at over 40 hospitals. But it’s the care providers like Sister Phyllis who make it so rewarding.

Greg Bell

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