“There’s such a strong need for dermatologists here. We just need the training. We’re here. We’re willing. That’s it!”
In South Africa there are only 250 trained dermatologists serving a population of over 54 million people*. This is a particularly dire statistic considering that skin problems are one of the top five most common conditions seen in primary health care.
In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), a region on the East coast of South Africa, there are just 30 trained dermatologists serving a community of 10.7 million people, and due to the prevalence of diseases like HIV and Tuberculosis in the region, up to 85% of patients come to public clinics with dermatological issues.
*University of KwaZulu-Natal data, 2016
“Skin problems don’t just affect our health. They affect how we feel about ourselves.”
Doctors and nurses at hospitals and clinics are on the frontline helping to deal with preventable as well as chronic skin diseases everyday in KZN. Yet training for nursing staff is minimal with the majority of nurses learning dermatology training from their colleagues on the ward.
Like most nurses all over the world, the staff are dedicated and love to learn better ways to care for the patients:
“We are the support system. We do whatever needs doing, and we do it with love and care in our hearts. It’s all about teamwork. And efficiency. We are like a family working together.”
To help upskill nurses in the region, The Vaseline® Healing Project with Direct Relief went to KwaZulu-Natal to deliver more dermatological training to nurses. The sessions were spread over four days with lectures and training clinics lead by leading local dermatologist Prof Ncoza Dlova.
“Today’s training is exciting… the first of its kind.” - Prof Dlova, Head of Dermatology, University of KwaZulu-Natal
The training has proved to be incredibly valuable for the nurses, with 372 getting hands-on experience with globally respected experts like Professor Ncoza Dlova. It means that more nurses can identify and help heal skin earlier - before the problems become more complex.
“I have learned so much from the course. I wish we could run this training more often.”
For South Africa and KZN, there’s clearly a long road to dealing with major health issues, dermatological or otherwise, but with a carefully planned training intervention the nurses in the region are starting to develop a better understanding of their patients skin, and how to improve the quality of their lives.