Learning about healthcare in Mituntu, Kenya from one hard-working nurse!

14 06 2011

By Nina Woolley

Rising Senior; Candidate for B.S. in Biology and Certificate in Global Health

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of SOTENI Kenya or SOTENI International.

I am now writing you from Mituntu, a village just north of Meru, Kenya. It’s amazing how chilly it can be at night and in the morning here, even though we’re so close to the equator. That’s because we’re in the foothills of Mount Kenya. When I scan the horizon, I am still not quite sure which enormous mountain is Mount Kenya, but it’s certainly a beautiful view (and very different from the other parts of Kenya I’ve seen).

Everyone tells me that this land is usually very fertile and green, but they have been suffering from a drought for the past two seasons and now the farms are filled with withered crops and swirling red dust. Numerous people have asked me which crops we grow in the U.S., and which crops my family grows. When I tell people that my family does not farm, everyone is shocked. Here, even if people have other jobs (operating a store, driving, nursing, working for the government, etc.) absolutely everyone farms and rears livestock. The common crops seem to be maize, beans, bananas, coffee, mangos, avocados, and other fruits. It is such a challenge to explain to people why my family and many other families in the U.S. do not farm. When I speak with a very curious or very persistent person, I find myself trying to explain large-scale industrialized farming, food imports, supermarkets and suburban neighborhoods. You can imagine how those conversations go!

While I am in Mituntu, I am staying with Regina, a woman who is the nursing officer at a nearby government-funded health facility. She is an excellent host mom, not only because she is taking good care of me at her house, but because she is teaching me so much about the Kenyan health system! We have discussed the structure of government-provided health services, the most common diseases in this area (malaria, HIV, and several types of bacterial infections), the antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care provided for mothers, the training of healthcare workers, and so many other fascinating topics.

I was very happy to have the opportunity to go with Regina to work yesterday to see in person what she had been talking about. The health facility that she runs has several different operations, and she describes them as preventive, curative, and promotive services. The preventive services include an immunization clinic and family planning center, the curative services include treatments for malaria, TB, diarrhea, other bacterial infections, fungal infections, trauma/wounds, and other health problems that do not require overnight hospitalization, and the promotive services include health education lessons, comprehensive antenatal care for expectant mothers, and midwifery. One aspect of the health clinic that I love is that the clinicians begin every morning with a 5-10 minute lesson to those seated in the waiting room. Topics include HIV transmission, drug compliance, waste disposal, personal hygiene, causes of diarrheal disease, immunizations, and malaria prevention. As someone who is passionate about both education and medicine, I was very excited to see this.

There is so much going on at the clinic, but there are only a handful of staff members: three nurses (one of whom is currently on leave) a lab technician, a pharmacist, and a watchman. In addition to expressing my amazement at the number of patients such few health personnel can serve, I also wanted to comment on the staff to say that ALL staff-members, except the watchman, are women! Regina said it wasn’t by design, but she does believe in women’s empowerment and she thinks the facility is working quite well under female leadership. I have to agree! The facility is running smoothly and, in addition to working so many hours there, Regina also sees patients at her home whenever they need care, day or night.

Today at the clinic I was thoroughly briefed on the entire operation of the facility – from stocking medicines to sterilizing equipment to registering patients – so that I may take some of that knowledge to the SOTENI dispensary in Mbakalo, which is not a government-run facility and does not have the same process and procedures in place. After that, I shadowed Regina in her work and got to assist her by weighing the babies who were brought in for check-up and documenting which immunizations they received, how many babies were brought in throughout the day, the remaining stock of each vaccine, etc. I love having the opportunity to engage in this clinical work in addition to my other responsibilities for SOTENI, and I am looking forward to working at the facility for at least one more day.

I was going to take the time to comment on other aspects of my work in Mituntu so far, but I fear that in my excitement for the health facility, I have already made this post far too long! I will post again soon to capture my other work here, but for now I’ll say goodbye.

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6 responses

14 06 2011
Braveen Ragunanthan

It’s great that you got to experience some hands-on rural medicine at a health post. I was glad to hear about the short health lessons offered to those in the waiting rooms as well. Hopefully that component allows patients to take away more from their trip to the clinic.

14 06 2011
Lysa

The three part system of the clinic where you worked sounds like a wonderful idea. It will be interesting to see how the Soteni clinic is organized given it’s different funding structure. I love the idea of a community based clinic that is organized, staffed and managed by women.

14 06 2011
Shoshana

I’m so inspired by your work. I just started working at MedWish International. We donate medical surplus supplies overseas and have worked with SOTENI several times. I would love to hear more about daily life in the clinics. Maybe some differences that you notice from American clinics. I’d love to see pictures as well, if you have them.

Thanks,

21 06 2011
nawoolley

Thanks for the comments! I am very happy to hear that MedWish International sends medical supplies to SOTENI. I will actually be carrying a big bag of donated gauze, syringes, gloves, etc. to the dispensary when I go there next week! I wrote about the Mituntu Health Centre a little bit more in my most recent post, but I would be happy to add more about differences between it and the American clinics within the next few days. Finally, I would love to add pictures to the blog, but I will need to wait until I have better internet to do that. I apologize to everyone for not uploading any pictures at all so far!

16 07 2011
Kirema Eric

I was happy to meet you at Sk offices in Nairobi. I was amazed with the seriousness with which you carry out activities. Im envious of your experience at mituntu health centre with Regina. I am a Bsc. Nursing candidate at the university of nairobi and you can be damn sure that thats the kind of skills i need before i the actual practice. Congratulations for your analytical mind and skill. To compare and borrow some procedures on record keeping , financial management and drug procurement and then selling the idea to the dispensary that soteni has set in mbakalo is no mean achievement and it takes wits. Kudos,bravo n thumbs high! Am following to hear what you say on the comparison bwn kenya and u.s

25 07 2011
nawoolley

Thanks for your comment, Eric. I enjoyed speaking with you at the SK office in Nairobi, too! You have so many wonderful things ahead of you, and I share in your excitement as you begin your studies at University of Nairobi. I am confident that you’ll become an excellent nurse. Perhaps soon you’ll be working at a health centre in Mituntu or another great facility, providing care to people who really need it. Good luck in your training! Just keep “walking forward,” as you told me.

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