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Government must advance nurses' rights and lessen their strain

Under-equipped healthcare facilities, overworked personnel and inadequate infrastructure are some of the systemic issues that have consistently plagued Kenya's health sector. The recent strike organised by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union also brought critical care services to a grinding halt in the country. As the country's nurses step in to bridge the care gap, the government must advance nurses' rights, lessen their strain and address understaffing for improved care delivery.

As we mark International Nurses Day today, nurses across the country are overworked, due to routine short staffing, particularly in public hospitals. This overwhelms us and leads to immense stress. Hospitals are, by nature, intense environments, and working under such tough conditions without a break can be unbearable. We spend a large amount of time with patients and rarely have time to unwind. It takes a toll on our physical and mental health.

Though we prioritise teamwork to avoid burnout and also do our best to take personal breaks whenever possible, I believe nurses deserve better work environments. Feelings of stagnation often set in as a result of doing repetitive tasks. It even leads us to question our career choice. To get around this, I enrolled in medical education courses to keep up with the most recent advancements in nursing research and technology. It keeps my job interesting and helps me to grow professionally.

However, this may not be possible for everyone and a diversified strategy is required to address these lingering issues on the whole and advance nurses' rights across the nation. To lessen the strain on nurses and guarantee improved care delivery, efforts should be directed towards addressing understaffing in public hospitals. This can be achieved by hiring additional nurses and integrating nursing assistants into the workforce.

Government-funded scholarship programmes must be made easily available to assist nurses in pursuing advanced degrees in other specialisations. This financial aid for postgraduate study and continuing short courses will enable nurses to increase their expertise, which will, in turn, improve the standard of service in healthcare systems across Kenya.

There should be more support systems in place, such as free counselling services and wellness initiatives, to contribute to the well-being of nurses. To prevent overwork and other forms of workplace exploitation for nurses, advocacy for stronger labour laws and regulations are essential. The health of the nation's nursing workforce is important and will undoubtedly contribute to a more efficient healthcare system.

The writer is a nurse and Nguvu Change Leader

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