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Leaving a mark in our lives

Phelisters Omwoyo (left) and Flora Shisubili (right) both work at the Strathmore University Medical Centre.

This week the world marked International Nurses Day, celebrated around the world every May 12. The theme of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth is apt: Nursing the World to Health. Frontline workers, among them nurses, in their quest to contain the pandemic, are putting themselves at risk for the well-being of others.

The Lady with the lamp

Florence came into the limelight during the Crimean war when she organized a group of nurses to tend to wounded soldiers. Her dedication revolutionalised the reputation of nurses and their working conditions. Known as “The Lady with the Lamp” for her night walks to check in on the soldiers, she worked long hours and for her efforts, mortality rates drastically reduced.

“This is a profession that requires courage and a spirit of sacrifice. It’s not only this virus that we are exposed now to. In the course of our work, we encounter patients who are highly contagious. But even if I would die and rise again, I would still choose to be a nurse,” Flora Shisubili, a nurse at the Strathmore University Medical Centre (SUMC). Her love for this was planted in her early years where she would look after her classmates confined to the sick bay. “I would take food and warm water to them. I remember in particular one of our school mates who would constantly be unwell. I found myself being the one regularly checking up one her.”

Serving humanity

Cecilia, Flora’s colleague, never saw herself as a nurse growing up. “My parents encouraged me to go to nursing school. I disagreed with them at first but after I got to interact with patients in hospitals, I saw that this is the career that suits me. It makes me happy to serve people because serving humanity is serving God. You touch their hearts and leave a mark in their lives.”

At SUMC, every precaution to safeguard the health of the staff members and public is being taken. The medical centre is open only three days a week for a few hours; appointments are booked within 30 minutes’ intervals to maintain social distance; and a triage has been set up outside the medical centre to screen patients before attending to them.

“It’s necessary to take the precautions but at times it can be difficult. I no longer relate to my patients, especially children, as I used to. It limits opportunities to show compassion through holding of hands or indulging a child in a bit of play,” Cecilia says.

Seeing people at their weakest has also taught Phelisters Omwoyo, the head nurse at SUMC, that sometimes people might be rude or even abusive when sick, not because they want to, but because they are unable to cope thus projecting their frustrations on the nurse. “Therefore as a nurse, without accepting the patients’ behavior, I can wisely assist them cope with their suffering as we work together on the healing.”

Fears and anxieties

By keeping abreast with the current information from medical circles, and participating in webinars from countries that have been hard hit allays her fears and anxiety the pandemic has brought with it. “I fear the country’s health system getting overwhelmed with infection rates and deaths, lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in the country or having our staff infected,” she says. To avert this, the medical centre has stocked up on PPEs and screens its staff members when they report to work. “These precautions give me strength to cope. We also keep encouraging each other and, above all, we pray.”

Other efforts to contribute to the welfare of healthcare workers are being championed by the Strathmore University Business School (SBS). With its wealth of experience over years offering executive coaching for the healthcare sector in the country, SBS is offering pro-bono coaching services to healthcare professionals in the wake of the pandemic. The Business School also held a webinar on “Stories from the Frontline: Experiences in the responses to and management of the COVID-19 pandemic.”


This article was written by Wambui Gachari. 


Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu