Similar to most Outpatient Departments (OPDs) at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, the OPD of the Child Health Department is usually packed in the mornings with parents/guardians and their children/wards waiting to be attended to by health professionals.
Apart from attending to patients who are scheduled to meet the different specialists at the unit, nurses and doctors also respond to emergency situations which are rushed to the OPD.
Like most government health facilities, long patient waiting time remains a problem and is even more severe as Korle Bu is the leading referral facility in Ghana.
Most of the time, getting the already frustrated parents of sick children to wait patiently for their turn can be hectic, but Principal Nursing Officer (PNO) Constance Offei who has worked at the unit for the past 20 years does so effortlessly, occasionally getting parents to smile or even laugh.
Ms Offei who sees nursing as a calling from God always has a joke or two to tell parents while demonstrating how to take care of babies as they wait to see doctors.
She believes doing so loosens them up and also helps them easily recall some of the demonstrations she makes while teaching them.
“I have realised that as you chat with them in a jovial way, they pay more attention and easily grasp what you are saying.
Through such interactions, they are able to communicate freely and learn how to handle their babies,” she told The Mirror in an interview.
Although she admits that it is not easy handling parents of sick children, she believes there’s always a better way to handle them rather than leaving them to grumble.
“Most of the parents we attend to are already irritated because of the situation their children are in, which they do not understand because most of the children can’t express themselves.
“Moreover, they may have other children at home whom they have left in the care of friends or family and so their attention may be divided. As a result, they are easily offended and may utter offensive words,” she said.
Ms Offei explained that they always paid special attention to emergencies as some cases required swift attention.
“Emergency patients don’t always come in wheelchairs, sometimes from the way the person walks to you or even from the tone.
Such cases must be quickly attended to before attending to the scheduled appointments.
“Some waiting parents may not understand so they assume you are giving someone preference over them.
Every morning before we start work, I explain this and other procedures at the unit to them so they understand,” she said.
Focus on neonates
Ms Offei’s special task is monitoring underweight preterm babies at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) clinic.
To ensure that mothers adhere to her guidelines on feeding, she follows up with personal calls and insists on weekly check-ups so the babies are properly monitored till they achieve the preferred weight.
That, she explained, decreased the number of patients who visited the clinic.
According to Ms Offei, though her schedule was hectic, she was always motivated by the results she saw in the babies she attended to and the cute smiles she received from them.
Ms Offei attended the Abetifi Girls Boarding School, then to Nkwatia Secondary School.
From there, she gained admission to Korle Bu Nursing Training College and later the Midwifery Training School also at Korle Bu.
She specialised in Paediatric Nursing at the School of Nursing, University of Ghana and also holds a Bachelor of Science (Bsc) in Nursing from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
She is very grateful to the Deputy Director of Nursing Services (DDNS), Joyce Oppong Ayisi, who is in charge of the Child Health Department, for her continuous support and guidance and also to PNO Felicia Gyimah, a senior colleague who assigns her to new tasks and has helped improve her nursing skills.
She also expressed her gratitude to Mrs Gifty Allotey (PNO) who teaches her grammar and effective nursing.
In her free time, Ms Offei enjoys listening to music and watching movies. She’s a member of the Mamprobi Ebenezer Presbyterian Church where she is a member of the prayer group.