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Dr. Mary Nyikuri: Researching nurses perceptions of quality care for small and sick hospitalized newborns

Dr. Mary Nyikuri with two of her supervisors: Dr. Joseph Onyango (left) and Prof. Gilbert Kokwaro (right)


The numbers of deaths of 0-28 day old babies in Nairobi remains exponentially high at 39/1000 live births, higher than the national average which is estimated at 22/100 live births (Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 2014). This is in spite of the presence of large public and private hospitals.

In the pursuit to find out why this was the case, Dr. Mary Nyikuri embarked on a journey to research “Nurses perceptions of quality care for small and sick hospitalized newborns in the public, private and faith based inpatient settings in Nairobi, Kenya”.  With the help of the front line care givers like nurses, she enquired what is required for nurses to deliver quality care. The research was aimed at providing evidence to the Nairobi County Department of Health and other stakeholders on what is required to improve the quality of care for sick and small hospitalized newborns. In addition, it opened up a forum for discussion where nurses working in neonatal wards can advocate for better working conditions.

This research culminated in her PhD thesis in Healthcare Management. Dr. Nyikuri, lecturer and associate research fellow, was among the three Ph.D. 2020 graduates from the  Institute of Healthcare Management at Strathmore University Business School (SBS).

Where it all began

My journey in Strathmore University began in 2015 when I interviewed for the Oxford-KEMRI-Strathmore joint scholarship to aid my doctoral studies. It was my first time in Strathmore and it was very intimidating. The ambience of the campus echoed vibes that made me feel welcomed as I ushered in another milestone in life. Having been a researcher from the small coastal town of Kilifi, I could not help but stare when I walked around only to later smile because I knew I belonged here.

Strength of a Woman

I am a last born in a family of 10. My mother raised us all alone. She has always been there for me and taught me to always depend on God. My life this far is a testimony of how all things are possible with God. In addition, it is a journey in which I have learnt to let go and let God. When God directs our paths there is an assurance that despite the hurdles, it shall come to pass and the rewards are greater. No matter what I face in life I have the confidence that I am not walking alone but have a constant helper that wills the best for me.

What were the findings?

The prerequisites for quality care are common for all nurses despite their facility affiliations. They all agree that adequate staffing, functional equipment, and empathetic supervisors are critical when it comes to caring for patients. Though equipment facilitate recovery, the nurses in public and faith based hospitals emphasized the importance of the human touch in promoting the little ones’ wellbeing.  In addition, the nurses continued to share that resilience, positive attitude, intrinsic motivation and punctuality are very important attributes of a nurse who desires to deliver quality care.

For the rest of us, it is important we action our appreciation by saying thank you to the neonatal nurses. We can call on the stakeholders to strengthen our health systems in order to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations in 2015. It’s a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” that includes reduction of child mortality. Also, the voice of the nurses needs to be credited as they share their experience.

Want to pursue a PhD?

Lastly to those that desire to pursue a PhD, think of it as conducting researching in an area that you are passionate about with an aim of impacting humanity positively. Though there will be challenges as they are in other areas of life keep an open mind and do not shy away from asking for help while at it. At the end you will enjoy its perks. Today, I celebrate the opportunity to relate with people of all walks of life as they shared their story. Secondly, with their shared experiences we are able to map out solutions. Over and above that I learnt a lot, made friends and established networks that went beyond the call of duty.


This article was written by Annete Karanja. 


If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu