Posted on November 5, 2012

Orientation morning #livefrommwanza #GGCBlogNo5

Wednesday 31st October, 2012

Today the whole DVP team met for orientation, ahead of their travelling to site this afternoon and we were lucky enough to be able to sit on the sidelines as spectators.

Jo, Mark, Tara and Paul from Bridge2Aid spend four intense hours running through expectations and the details for the days ahead.  It’s a packed morning with a lot of information covered that even I worry I may have missed something.  I spoke to Mark about this at lunchtime and he explained that the most important thing to take away was confidence and the strength to say ‘I CAN do this’.

Mark said there would be someone there to guide them through the whole process and that the strength of the team was the foundation to their ‘success’ on site.  There is a real mix of experience here, those who have been on DVP before, who have worked in practice for over 30 years and those who are on their first trip and just starting out in the profession, so there is always someone to rely on if you get stuck.

He knows that everyone will be fine – this is their profession and they know exactly what they’re doing, it’s just the environment that is different and has the capability to throw you off guard at the start.

The day starts with an introduction by each team member.  Even though we met and spoke to a few members last night it was great to have an overview of their time in practice and fascinating to hear them outline ‘their greatest achievement’.  There were those incredibly giving people who have almost dedicated their lives to fundraising, those who are embarking on their seventh DVP, and those just starting out in practice who for them, Bridge2Aid provides a route for them to fulfill a lifetime ambition and to do something different.

The point of today is to prepare the team for the days ahead, to outline safety precautions, introduce the kits being used on site, give everyone the chance to ask any questions they may have and reiterate the point of this programme – training!!

Jo Topley, a general nurse in a previous life, prepares the team for what might lay ahead and outlines the safety precautions while on site, information about the types of patients the team could expect to treat and the importance of the behavior of the team.

As you might expect, the issue of infection control is paramount and Jo spends a great deal of time reminding the teams of the importance of prevention.  The stats on those suffering from HIV out here are difficult to track but it is estimated that sufferers are between 17 – 40% of the population, so Jo runs through the litigious processes in place should a needle stick injury occur.

To me this seems a scary talk to listen to, but I’m reminded that the teams work on the basis that patients are HIV positive in the UK and it’s simply that the disease is more prevalent out here that precautions are even more important.  However it’s because of the talks held today that everyone on DVP is kept safe and well at all times.

Paul then runs through the most important part of being onsite – the training – and this is central to Bridge2Aid.   The dentist and dental nurses are here to train the Clinical Officers in basic dentistry.  This training means the clinical officers can continue to work long after the team has returned home and this is what makes the work of Bridge2Aid sustainable.

The B2A team outline that it is solely because of the training undertaken by previous Dental Volunteers that 2 million people can now access a dentist and have some oral health education and state that Bridge2Aid are working hard to ensure these numbers continue to grow.

It must be hard for those who are about to start their first DVP.  They are trained to treat patients and surely being on site they will want to do as much of this as possible.  The B2A team are aware of this, which is why they spend a lot of time running through the importance of the training.

They explain that there may be hundreds of patients waiting to be treated on site suffering in pain but that the Clinical Leads may make the decision to turn all of them away and send them home.  This may be because the clinical officers are struggling, slower at learning or simply because it is more important that they learn more from their teaching dentist during one patient ‘appointment’ than the dentist rushing to treat hundreds.

The Bridge2Aid team reassure the team that when they leave things will carry on and make a difference in the long term and that each volunteer must remember this on site.

The final part of the morning is undertaken by the two clinical leads: Kiaran and Graham.  Both are practicing dentists who have been on DVP seven times and are now supporting the dental volunteers on site.  They work with the District Dental Officer in the region they visit to oversee the training, answer any questions from the volunteers and stepping in when needed.  They explain that they are there to monitor how many patients are seen, to ensure training is always at the core of each day and to look after the welfare of the volunteers – making sure they are taking breaks when needed and providing emotional support should it be required.  Both Kieran and Graham seem to get such a lot from DVP and are clearly passionate about the programme, but they also have a strength about them which resonates in the group and provides everyone in the room with a confidence for what is about to be undertaken.

Graham and Kiaran are both heading up a team and will be practicing on two different sites.  Graham and his team are heading to Geita and Kieran and hers to Magu.  The two teams separate and the clinical leads go through the tools that will be used on site.  They are basic and I note a few gasps.  However, again the issue of sustainability comes up.

There is no point in the teams training with tools that the clinical officers cannot continue to use in the long term, so training must be undertaken with the most accessible tools in East Africa and those which can be used in the future.  Needles are thick and the tools are basic but they will do the correct job and they will enable training – and that is the most important factor.

And now after lunch and some nervous and excitable faces, we wave both teams off on their journey to the sites ahead of a big day tomorrow.

We all return to our hotels, likewise feeling nervous for the day ahead…

Until tomorrow,


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