Under-equipped health care facilities, overworked personnel and inadequate infrastructure are some of the systemic issues that have consistently plagued Kenya’s health sector.

The recent strike organised by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union also brought critical care services to a grinding halt in the country. As the country’s nurses step in to bridge the care gap, Nguvu Change Leader and nurse, Deborah Monari speaks up on International Nurses Day, about the unrelenting challenges that she and her peers have to deal with on a daily basis.

She says, “Kenyan nurses are overworked, due to routine short staffing, particularly in public hospitals. This overwhelms us and leads to immense stress. Hospitals are, by nature, intense environments, and working under such tough conditions without a break can be excruciating. We spend a large amount of time with patients and rarely have time to unwind. It takes a toll on our physical and mental health.”

Though Deborah prioritises teamwork to avoid a burnout and also does her best to take personal breaks whenever possible, she also believes nurses deserve better work environments.

She explains, “Feelings of stagnation often set in as a result of doing repetitive tasks. It even leads us to question our career choice.”

In order to get around this, Deborah enrols in medical education courses to keep up with the most recent advancements in nursing research and technology. It keeps her job interesting and helps her to grow professionally.

However, this may not be possible for every one and she suggests, “A diversified strategy is required to address lingering issues on the whole and advance nurses’ rights across the nation. In order to lessen the strain for nurses and guarantee improved care delivery, efforts should be directed towards addressing understaffing in public hospitals. This can be achieved by hiring additional nurses and integrating nursing assistants in the workforce.”

She also believes government-funded scholarship programmes must be made easily available in order to assist nurses in pursuing advanced degrees in other specialisations. In her opinion, this financial aid for postgraduate study and continuing short courses will enable nurses to increase their expertise, which will, in turn, improve the standard of service in healthcare systems across Kenya.

“There should be more support systems in place, such as free counselling services and wellness initiatives, to contribute to the well-being of nurses. To prevent overwork and other forms of workplace exploitation for nurses, advocacy for stronger labour laws and regulations are essential. The health of the nation’s nursing workforce is important and will undoubtedly contribute to a more efficient healthcare system,” concludes Deborah.

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