In honor of International Nurse’s Day, we are sharing this piece from Abigail Zielinski, a volunteer nurse who served in Kenya. Here, she writes about the important impact of one of her nurse colleagues. 

I have been in Kenya for six months now as a volunteer nurse in Our Lady of Lourdes Mutomo Mission Hospital. During this time, I have worked alongside the medical and pediatric nurses. They welcomed me with open arms and I became one of the regularly scheduled nurses. Working alongside these nurses, I have learned a lot not only about nursing in a low-resource setting but also about the courage and strength to keep going every day.

There are days of joy and excitement when people heal and are able to go home. Other days it is hard to keep moving forward because we are to busy to think straight, things are not going well or people are dying and all you can do is watch the suffering and are able to offer only the most basic form of comfort.

Many of the nurses I have been working with have done this for at least a couple of years and continue to come back every day to do it all over again. I admire the work that the nurses here do and the commitment that many share to provide the best care they can with what is available.

Meet Jacqueline

jacuqleine at mutomo mission hospital

One nurse who has inspired me in a special way is Jacqueline. I have been working with her since I first arrived in Kenya and I have learned that she holds many roles in the hospital.

She is a full time floor nurse which means she works five days a week full time with the patients. She is also the nurse in charge of all the adult medical and surgical nursing staff along with assisting with the pediatric nursing staff. This means she is responsible for scheduling staff, as well as nursing students, with the assistance of Tabitha who is the head of the pediatric ward.

Together, they are responsible for making sure all the billing in the wards is completed and that staff are caring for patients in an appropriate manner. They also ensure the ward has enough supplies to function properly.

Jacqueline also is responsible for handling the differences and problems that happen between her department and other departments. She tries to maintain peace in the hospital and also speaks up if something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

Since Jacqueline is the head of the department she also spends time communicating with the matron (head of nursing in the hospital). If the matron or assistant matron is unavailable she will also take on their responsibilities and assist in other departments when necessary.

Needless to say, Jacqueline is very busy. 

Going Above and Beyond

Jacqueline’s comfort zone is working with adult patients but does not hesitate to step out of that comfort zone and work where she is most needed. She does so much advocating not only for patients but also staff. The amount of work she takes on is truly amazing.

One of the things that I admire the most about Jacqueline is that she deeply cares about her patients. Despite the lack of resources, Jaqueline always works hard to ensure her patients receive the best care that they can with the resources and staff available.

Photo of the Mutomo Mission Hospital sign taken by volunteer, Samantha Hodge

Her passion for providing care and the care she gives the patients even if she knows there is not a lot we can do is inspiring. Jacqueline mentors and guides those who need instruction as long as they are willing to listen. She also listens and treats everyone with respect.

Lessons from Jacqui

It wasn’t until a few months after I met Jacqueline that I learned that she is only 24 years old. Despite her young age, Jacqueline has shown me that anything is possible and that there are no limits to what I am capable of except the limits that I place on myself.

She has also shown me there is no need to sacrifice compassion and caring for responsibility and to achieve goals. Yes, at times hard choices need to be made but the spirit in which a person makes them makes all the difference.

Jacqui has been an inspiration for me and has also shown me that there is little I cannot do. Courage is taking one day at a time and doing our best for those we care for, even when it is hard.

A note about the impact of Covid-19

Since writing this piece, Abby has completed her service in Kenya and returned home. Today, as the threat of Covid-19 grows for low-resource communities like Mutomo, Abby shares the following:

The virus would affect the hospital in a big way. As a low resource setting, the hospital has access to only a few masks and no access to gowns that are critical to help prevent the spread of infection. All the wards are open and beds are relatively close.

The hospital does not have a ventilator for use when patients have have difficulty breathing. With so many people already sick with chronic cough and limited lab facilities, diagnosis of the virus would be difficult.

There’s not enough staff to care for what would become an even more overcrowded hospital and the spread of infection would be likely due to lack of protective equipment. Without treatment or the equipment needed to save lives, many could die. For nurses, a high exposure rate puts themselves and their families at risk.

These are only a few of the ways the virus could impact the Mutomo Mission Hospital and its staff. It would be devastating.