To say nurses are busy bees could be an understatement if one spent a day with these caregivers in public hospitals.
For Lilian Ajuogi, who has been in the profession for the last 19 years, every day comes with its own challenges.
“There is nothing like a predictable day in the life of a nurse. We experience new situations every day,” she told the Nation in an interview.
“Despite this, I have never regretted choosing this profession and never will.
“The passion I have for my job is out of this world. This is a calling and not anyone can be a nurse,” she said.
“I made an oath to protect and take care of people’s lives. I have been faithful to this oath and will continue doing so,” she added.
On a typical day, Ms Ajuogi reports for duty at the Kisumu County Hospital at 7.30am.
She exchanges notes with her colleagues who were on night shift, before proceeding to the wards to check on her patients.
From the records, she gives the most critical patients first priority.
She then proceeds to administer medication, based on the doctor’s prescriptions. If there are any laboratory test results, she presents them to the patients as well.
The nurse said it is also her duty to assist patients with Foley catheters, a tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine.
She has to remove and replace the catheter bags. She also has to ensure saline bags are replaced.
“At times only one nurse is on duty. I have to attend to all the patients in the ward, at times with a bed capacity of 50,” said Ms Ajuogi.
After the ward rounds and ensuring that every patient is fine, she heads to the Outpatient Department for the second phase of her work.
“Here, patients are at times brought when they are soaked in blood if they were involved in an accident, or even soiled. But we take all this in our stride and give them the care they need,” she said.
Before she breaks for lunch, Ms Ajuogi goes back to the wards for yet another round and ensures all the patients are well. She informs them she will be back later for review.
When a doctor recommends that a patient be discharged, Ms Ajuogi is the one who does the paperwork.
As soon as one patient leaves, another is admitted and the cycle continues.
She ensures the new patient admitted is comfortable before the doctor comes.
At 6.30pm, she completes her follow-up notes on her patients just in time to hand over to the night shift nurses and give them a report.
“It’s a long day, but a successful one. The same happens the next day but with a different workload altogether,” she said.
This time, she is the one in charge, and in case of an accident, she ensures that emergency cases are attended to first.
“All these things cannot be done by an unskilled nurse. You have to go through thorough training, sit your examinations, both practical and theory, and pass,” said Ms Ajuogi.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) recently graded nurses in the band of unskilled employees. She disagrees.
“Can an unskilled employee perform all the things nurses do in hospitals? What the commission did is uncalled for and it is not right. They are trying to play with the life of nurses,” said Ms Ajuogi.
Nurses in public hospitals are overworked, leading to poor services. They suffer burnout and become irritable.
According to the Kenya Healthcare Workforce Report, the current ratio of practising nurses to the population is 8 per 10,000, compared to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 25 nurses per 10,000.
Of the 51,649 nurses below the age of 60 who have been registered, only 31,896 are active in hospitals.
As a result, a Kenyan nurse does the work of three in Cuba or America, yet studies have shown that adjusting the nurses-to-patients ratio in departments such as the intensive care and neonatal units can positively affect health outcomes.
Nurses in the country have, therefore, been pushing for better remuneration contained in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was to be signed by the government on March 2.
Mrs Sarah Serem, the chairperson of the SRC, which must approve the pay demands before they are effected, said it will not do so as the drafters of the CBA ignored its advice.
The commission further said the demands by the nurses are too high and need to be reviewed.