TWOWEEKS Volunteer Profile: John Baylis

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

John Baylis supported TWOWEEKS by fundraising and making a 2-week trip out to Lily of the Valley in March 2011 and he’s continued supporting TWOWEEKS ever since. John has a background in both hospital and community pharmacy and currently works as a clinical pharmacist in the mental health setting. The work his team undertook at Lily last year made an enormous difference to the ongoing healthcare support that TWOWEEKS provides to the local communities in Mophela, South Africa. We asked John a few questions about what motivates him and how he found his TWOWEEKS volunteering experience.

What do you enjoy about the work you do?

No matter which area of pharmacy I find myself working in, I like to focus on providing the best healthcare outcomes to patients. Working as a clinical pharmacist requires good problem-solving skills and the ability to communicate sometimes complex information to other staff, patients or carers. Of course such skills were needed in South Africa where the differences in healthcare provision and available resources meant we had to think on our feet everyday.

Tell us about your TWOWEEKS experience.

My experience of TWOWEEKS is focused around the two weeks I spent at Lily of the Valley Orphanage and the surrounding community in March of 2011. The important point I took from my experience was to keep in mind (throughout all our work) the underlying principle and philosophy of TWOWEEKS, which is, not to try and change everything in such a short period of time but to leave behind training, education and structure which can help future workers and volunteers build upon the work long term. Two weeks to leave a legacy so to speak.

But initially the idea started when a colleague mentioned doing some volunteer work in South Africa. I first went to an introductory meeting with two members of the TWOWEEKS team. The meeting was friendly and informal and put me at ease. I got the impression this was a charity that did not want anything from me other than the skills I could provide for the benefit of others.

After discussing some general points and further planning we met again prior to our trip. This was to discuss specifics such as timetables, safety, people, places etc and was a great primer offered by the TWOWEEKS team to make sure we knew who to ask, where to go and how to stay safe in South Africa. I felt confident at this point that under the guidance of the TWOWEEKS team we could start to concentrate our efforts away from such ‘logistics’ and focus on the role-specific task at hand.

With this in mind, we were somewhat heading down an unknown path. Up until this point TWOWEEKS had never used pharmacists to provide healthcare services at any of its sites or projects, so we didn’t know of how much use we could be. However, in the back of my mind I was confident we could aid Lily of the Valley and the local community by utilising our specific skill-set as pharmacists.

When we got to Lily of the Valley, we were shown to our on-site home for two weeks. It was great being situated on the edge of a game park as we shared our ‘back garden’ with many African species. Very early on we were introduced to some of the key members of the Lily of the Valley team; from managerial to healthcare staff and the House Mothers who live in with the children as surrogate mothers or in some cases fathers. The whole team were very friendly and so glad to have us there. Of course we also met the kids. In this we were not given a choice, as on getting out of the 4×4 within the children’s complex, we were immediately mobbed and pressed into playing football, trampolining and generally running around making strange noises and all sorts of things we had not participated in since our own childhood.

Our work was largely split three ways. The first area we worked in was the Lily of the Valley Orphanage itself. Here we looked at the children’s clinic and the provision of ARV (antiretroviral) medications to the children. We quickly identified some problems, pharmaceutical in nature and set about planning to rectify what we could with limited time. Some of the simpler measures included basic dispensary formularies, storage, disposal and stock rotation. Whilst some of the more advanced interventions surrounded the education of non-healthcare professionals, who were responsible for administration of the ARV medication. It was important to impart the messages of dose timing and adherence to get the best out of the children’s medication and improve clinical outcomes.

Our second main area of work was the community clinic. Here we also looked at basic dispensary process and stock issues. We also looked at the potential of the clinic for further expanded use and indeed have recently continued to do so from the UK.

The third area was working in the community. Here we were guided around the two local townships by a member of that community and a local nurse based out of the community clinic. We undertook medicines use assessments and clinical medicine checks, for example checking doses, indications, interactions and any problems patients may have had when taking their medications. We found many issues and when appropriate wrote referral letters to local doctors to make interventions in patients’ medicine regimens. One example that sticks in my mind was a young man who had started to experience seizures, despite taking his medication, around twice a week. His mother described the seizures as increasing in severity (increasing the risk of brain damage). The simple intervention, given his current dose, was to make a small stepwise increase until he was rendered seizure-free. So many times it was addressing the basics to make a huge difference.

What makes you tick outside of your work and volunteering?

I really enjoy mountain biking and am lucky enough to have the South Downs on my doorstep, which provides miles of countryside trails to explore. This helps me keep fit and get fresh air. If I am not feeling active enough (some Sundays!) to get out on my bike, I like to walk in local countryside for the same reasons: sunlight and fresh air! I do find however, that the UK doesn’t hold enough adventure/wilderness for me. After travelling to Alaska in late 2010, hiking trails, using ATV’s for off-road travel and having a couple of close bear encounters whilst camping, I am keen to go back.

My second big passion is target shooting. It is a slightly misunderstood sport and when telling people I am often wary of quizzical or worried responses. This is largely due to public mis-education about firearms for sporting use. Like mountain biking, shooting lets me get outside. I shoot rain or shine; mainly at the home of British shooting, Bisley Ranges in Surrey. Shooting lets me forget the everyday trappings of life as it requires a great deal of skill, knowledge and concentration to place a bullet travelling at over twice the speed of sound into a six-inch circle at 600 yards.

I also enjoy drawing and art and play the bass guitar. These hobbies have been somewhat neglected of late!

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