AKU-SONAM Faculty, Horatius Musembi prepares his presentation for an online CPD session
When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya, nurses found themselves at the forefront, dealing with the pandemic. Even if they have been devoted in providing care to infected patients, they continue to face several risks. Some healthcare professionals have contracted the virus in the line of duty while the rest face stigma from their families and colleagues due to fear of contamination. Nurses and midwives too, have to deal with the reality of getting infected in the course of providing care to those who need it the most; a heavy burden to bear. This is why the Aga Khan School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) faculty and its Continuous Professional Development (CPD) team have been working to facilitate training courses for frontline nurses and midwives all over Kenya.
Since June 1, the team has been training frontline health caregivers on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) via video call and Moodle, an online teaching and learning platform. Airtime and data bundles were provided to participants to reduce expenses for the frontline workers. Beth Waweru, one of the facilitators, communicated that the training sessions were important “Because of how involved nurses are in the fight against the pandemic." She admitted that nurses and midwives should already know about these practices but added that “With the pandemic, nothing can be taken for granted. We decided to refresh their knowledge on Infection Prevention and Control because as the restriction on movement eases, there may be increases in COVID cases and a need to involve community centres." The main areas of focus have been around the cities and border points with neighbouring countries. To ensure that the counties are ready as well, the CPD team has worked with County Nursing Officers to train up to 60 nurses so far while targeting 200 nurses in total.
To this point, they have trained nurses from Machakos and Murang'a Counties, uncovering several insights along the way. “During one of the sessions, the participants told us that they do not have guidelines for infection prevention and control," shares Horatius Musembi, another facilitator and faculty at AKU-SONAM. “We realized that we were filling a gap in terms of standardization of infection prevention measures and that the frontline workers would need more help to develop IPC guidelines across their counties." According to the team, this was a great insight because when the first case of COVID-19 broke out in Kenya in mid-March, several nurses in one of Kenya's most prominent public hospitals threatened to down their tools. They cited that their main grievance was that they were expected to handle a crisis for which they had no training. The reality is that several nurses have been dealing with the pandemic in fear of being infected by patients and infecting their families, while still being unsure of how to protect themselves and handle the personal protective equipment. The training sessions covered donning and doffing, personal protective equipment management, infection transmission and how to break the chain of transmission, cleaning and disinfection, isolation, waste handling and basic microbiology.
During a pandemic, it may prove fatal to take for granted that frontline workers are ready and well-equipped to handle everything that is thrown their way. The illness caught healthcare workers by surprise, as it did everyone else. Isaac Ngotho, one of the participants and a nurse in Murang'a County was delighted after one of the sessions and shared that “It was a great experience to learn virtually and go through a refresher on IPC. I'd like to thank the AKU fraternity for engaging us well all through and supporting us fully. We hope to get other opportunities for more short courses."