Kenyan Nurses slumber no more!!!!

It is time for nursing as profession to awaken. Arise and shine nurses, be whom you claim to be!

Fifteen years ago, I made a decision to be a nurse after my father diverted attention from being a lawyer as he cautioned me not to pursue law as he had no law firm I would practice upon graduating. His preference was based on perception that I would never lack job opportunity as a nurse locally and even abroad. Just like it is the norm, my high school teacher magnificently described nursing as backbone of healthcare. I excitedly obliged. The institution never prepared me to reality of nursing, but emphasis was being nursing leaders and making difference, a thing I found it as paradoxical in some way. I am going back to my initial career but as nurses advocate. You are already wondering what all this is about.

It is time for nursing as profession to awaken. Arise and shine nurses, be whom you claim to be! Year in year out we are proudly shouting that we are backbone of healthcare just like my father did many years ago, yet we have nothing to show. We have gone for numerous strikes without breakthrough. So where did the rains start beating us and what are we not getting right? We must acknowledge that there are systematic biases where majority of the cadre is dominated by feminine gender compared to other professions. No offence to male nurses, in fact I applaud you for defying societal constructs. In some way, this has led to entire profession being undermined as there is pay disparity between men and women globally (Blau and Kahn, 2017).This brings about power dynamics and who calls the shot in the health care system; more to be expounded on in future articles. Another undoing in nursing is that the profession is a divided house. We have nurses in public health sector, private health sector, academia, NGO, etc. As if that is not enough, we have divided ourselves in terms of ECN, KRCHNs, BSNs, MSNs, PHD nurses and even nursing aids are claiming to be part of us. The conversation becomes undermining each other yet we are of one body. A house which is divided will never stand strong. Effective mentorship dies natural death, we see each other as enemies and call each other names. We act as hypocrites when we come together for better renumeration in one event, yet profession creates numerous instances/opportunities of uniting. We all face increased risk as frontline workers, violence, burnout, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, among others. Is all hope lost? Not at all.

Covid 19 can be blessing in disguise if we choose the opportunity it has presented to us. Health care system inadequacies have been exposed to every sundry. The need of safe health safe systems at workplace which are also gender responsive cannot be overemphasized. Unlike before, we have recognized, appreciated, and acknowledge need of effective leadership who can leverage on global health security brought about by pandemic to call for need of securitization of health policies that affect nurses. Equally, it is time to massively invade in the health care political and leadership space. Nurses must claim seats at the decision table if we want to see and feel the change we have always desired. However, as long as we are the cold, we will always scramble for crumbs. To achieve this, NCK, nurses, unions and academia must play their role in forming framework for bargaining for nurses’ rights. We must have data for our advocacy which comes from research and scientific publications. Operating in silos has been greatest outdoing. Let us be truthful to ourselves and align our expectations to correct the discourse. Let us influence health care delivery today and future by understanding the system, actively and meaningfully setting the agenda, formulating, implementing, and evaluating policies that affect us. Let us not restrict ourselves to conventional ways of thinking and be creative and innovative in delivering nursing services. Nurses arise and shine to your right position.

Chepkirui Hildah

BsN (Kenyatta University),

MSc Global Health (University of Global Health Equity),

Msc Health Economics and policy (University of Birmingham)

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