Nursing studies

Planting the seeds of sepsis education

A trip to India by RCNi student award winner helped her share infection control knowledge

A trip to India by RCNi student award winner Katie Dutton gave a chance to share infection control knowledge


Ms Dutton, third from left, with project group colleagues and local teachers at a session
in Ahmedabad. Picture: Charlie Firth

In January, I was part of a project group that travelled to Ahmedabad in India to launch a book that aims to help children understand how germs can make you ill.

A Germ’s Journey follows the journey of a germ from a surface to the hands to the stomach. It was created by two professors at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester – head of the infectious disease research group Katie Laird and professor of education Sarah Younie.

The book was translated into Gujarati, with the addition of culturally relevant pictures, such as a squat toilet at floor level, rather than a Western-syle, sitting toilet.

We also took other free resources with us, including posters, guides and games for the teachers we would meet and train there. The gratitude shown by the community and teachers was overwhelming; the environmental sanitation institute director described it as ‘a gift of love’.  

While there, I ran sepsis workshops for the teachers, which covered a basic definition of sepsis, common causes, signs and symptoms in adults and children, and the necessary treatment if sepsis is suspected.

‘That was the point when I realised that the teachers truly understood the link between germs, infection and sepsis symptoms’

The workshops included a sepsis poem I created, which had also been translated into Gujarati. The poem, A Germ’s Journey to Sepsis, highlights the symptoms teachers need to be aware of in children, with every verse emphasising the urgency of getting medical help.

I was joined on the trip by a wonderful group of DMU students. Second-year children’s nursing student Sophie Gill, who took the lead on how sepsis presents in children, was accompanied by two students who had survived sepsis: pharmacy student Alex Scarbro and photography student Charlie Firth, who developed sepsis from a simple urinary tract infection.

Teachers made the link


Ms Dutton hopes her workshop
trainees will go on to teach others.
Picture: Charlie Firth

The workshops were very rewarding, even more so when the teachers co-created a song for the children about the symptoms of sepsis. That was the point when I realised that the teachers truly understood the link between germs, infection and sepsis symptoms.

Listening to the teachers write the song was an emotional experience that I will never forget. It showed that, despite the poverty and poor health in India, it is still possible to make a huge difference – it is all about planting seeds.

We trained 100 teachers at our sepsis workshops, who will go on to train others. This will have a ripple effect, reinforcing the sepsis message.

We also taught the children about A Germ’s Journey, with activities split into four groups:

  • Group one involved story time, in which the children read the book aloud, which they really engaged with.
  • Group two was a colouring session. The children had a colouring sheet with a good germ and a bad germ to help them understand that not all germs are bad.
  • Group three, an interactive session on iPads, gave the children access to A Germ’s Journey online resources and games, which they found fascinating.
  • Group four used UV hand cream to reinforce the message. The children could see their hands glowing under the UV light, then washed their hands to see if they could get rid of all the cream – which they associated with the invisible germs.

The children’s centres and schools I visited were mostly in poorer, slum areas, which was a bit of a culture shock. But the biggest suprise was the smiling faces everywhere we went.

I wished I could do more

Amid the lack of sanitation and hygiene there were bright colours around us and children asking for pictures, which couldn’t help but bring joy, even in the saddest situations.

One child hadn’t eaten for 24 hours, and when he ate his school lunch too fast, he vomited. It was easy to be moved by these children. It felt incredible to be part of their learning, but I wished I could do more to improve their situation.

It was also strange that the children’s growth charts didn’t have an 'overweight' section, only 'underweight' or 'average', with the average being significantly lower than that in the UK.

India is bursting with vibrant colours, music, laughter and happiness – being pulled into a street wedding was one of the highlights of the trip. It is these moments that make India so special.

The community we worked with, called Manav Sadhna, has a quote above its door: ‘Happiness depends on what you can give and not what you can get.’ This truly reflected the nature of those we worked with and alongside in India, and I hope that our contribution to their learning helps them towards a brighter and healthier future.

The Manav Sadhna charity is based in the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad. Donations towards their projects can be made online – click here.


Katie Dutton is a second-year nursing student at De Montfort University in Leicester and winner of the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award at the 2018 RCNi Nurse Awards

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