Motivating TB health workers & patients

"We're performing a public health service. It's close to a calling."
── John Stuart Pancho

John Stuart Pancho, a nurse working at the Lung Center of the Philippines, finds that keeping fellow health workers motivated is as important as motivating patients. Nurses are on the front lines of TB care as they interact with patients on a daily basis. With the standard multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) regimen lasting up to two years, serving as a TB nurse is very different from nursing in other therapeutic areas. Close bonds are formed with the patient. They become a part of each other's lives. Forming close ties has proven essential to the success of many patients, and with MDR-TB rates on the rise and an increasing number of patients entering treatment, it is crucial to keep the staff motivated.

Stuart conducts training workshops for nurses. "More than just providing technical training, part of my job is to motivate staff. I try to remind them that we're doing more than a job-we're performing a public health service. It's close to a calling."

Stuart recognizes that motivating the patients is an even more difficult task. "It's very hard," says Stuart. "In my experience, patients are the best motivators of other patients. So what we try to do is to identify patient advocates because they are the only ones who can share what it means to feel discriminated, ostracized, overwhelmed-all the aspects of their life that have changed because of the disease."

Stuart does not need to look far to identify the most important advocate in his own life. His wife, Mildred, survived extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) twice, and has become a powerful supporter and role model for other patients. Motivating patients and other health workers has become a family affair for this young couple. "I tell patients, go back to the treatment centers and share your testimony with others," says Mildred. "Share your hardship and your success because there is always life after TB."

Living with tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) can affect anyone, anywhere. From the plains of Africa to the mountains of Peru to the cities of Europe and North America, TB is a disease that knows no boundaries. But TB is not a death sentence: despite the millions of deaths each year, there are stories of hope - people who struggle hard but overcome the disease.