WORLD HEALTH DAY

Celebrating healthcare heroes

I'm delighted to recognise, laud and trumpet their self-sacrificing work.

In Summary
  • What remains worrying is the disproportionate distribution of nurses to the urban and rural areas, with the former undeservedly favoured.   
  • Given their front-line role, they are exposed to infection from Covid-19 within their workplace.

Every year on April 7, World Health Day is commemorated globally. It is usually a time to reflect on emerging health challenges and opportunities. The year 2020 will be remembered for the disruption and devastation caused by Covid-19. In some countries, it has stretched healthcare systems beyond elasticity and presented serious threat to healthcare workers.

Nurses find themselves right in the middle of the fight against Covid-19. Their efforts to attend to the needs of their patients round the clock at the expense of their families is admirable.

It is no surprise that the World Health Organization has deservedly dedicated the 2020 World Health Day to celebrate these gallant men and women whose contribution to the healthcare system is prodigious. I am delighted to recognise, laud and trumpet the self-sacrificing work of these heroes and heroines. 

The origin of modern nursing profession can be traced back to the selfless act of Florence Nightingale who changed the conventional thinking and perception around nursing. Initially seen as a lowly, unskilled, unappreciated profession, Nightingale transformed nursing into an institutionalised, skilled and humanised vocation.

 

Eunice Muringo Kiereini has often been called Kenya’s Nightingale due to to her immense contribution to the formalisation of the nursing profession in the county. Her litany of achievements include Presidency of the International Council of Nurses, founding of the National Nurses Association, legislation of the Nursing Act and enhancement of nursing education in Kenya.

The work of Eunice and her successors has seen a steady rise in the number of nurses. The Kenya Health Workforce Report of 2015 indicates that between 2012 and 2014, 31,896 nurses were granted licences to operate in public and private health facilities. This figure has certainly changed given the high number of trainee nurses transiting from nursing schools into the job market.

With the spread of Covid-19, the role of nurses is important particularly in the context of interfacing communities and the health system. They are well placed to champion handwashing and other preventive measure against the spread of the virus. Their connection with communities is useful in addressing fear, myths and credible information around Covid-19.

What remains worrying is the disproportionate distribution of nurses to the urban and rural areas, with the former undeservedly favoured.   

Nursing stations are often the first point of contact for patients in the health facilities. Nurses are usually the first group of people to respond to emergencies and play a pivotal role in the screening and referral of patients for appropriate medical intervention. Nurses also collect, manage and transmit huge volumes of health data from the facilities that if rightly used can help transform the health system.

I remember Margaret, a nurse in one of Lokickar’s far-flung health facilities. We met about five years ago and I could not help but notice her commitment and dedication to her work. Maggy, as the community fondly called her, always arrived at her workstation at 7am and diligently served her “special clients” until very late in the afternoon.

She was the bastion of the healthcare system in the locality and she unapologetically played this role. Maggy represents many of the nurses who give their all to serve their communities despite the health system constraints.

With the spread of Covid-19, the role of nurses is important particularly in the context of interfacing communities and the health system. They are well placed to champion handwashing and other preventive measure against the spread of the virus. Their connection with communities is useful in addressing fear, myths and credible information around Covid-19.

 

Given their front-line role, they are exposed to infection from Covid-19 within their workplace. The Ministry of Health must facilitate the provision of personal protection equipment to nurses and health professionals to minimise exposure to the virus.

As we celebrate the unsung superstars of Kenya’s healthcare system today, it is our hope that their commitment, dedication and selflessness will inspire another generation of nurses to serve humanity.