Lilian Karanja during one of AKU-SONAM's alumni events
“Learning to make the best out of difficult or painful experiences is a learned skill," writes Lilian Karanja, BScN '18, in her blog which is appropriately called “School of Hard Knocks". Apart from being a Critical Care nurse at the Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya, she is also an alumna of the Aga Khan School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) and recently added “blogger" to her range of skills.
“I began blogging towards the end of last year. It was mostly for fun as I had a lot of time and was trying to figure out my next step" Lilian notes as if to acknowledge the contrast between nursing and blogging. “Time" is a resource that healthcare workers have been deprived of with the emergence of COVID-19, however, Lilian has “time" because every week she embarks on a commute between Nairobi where she stays and Mombasa where she works. During the six-hour one-way journey, Lilian has enough time to read a book, reflect, research on and write her blogposts. She continues to express that the blog, at first, was meant to be her way of turning daily experiences into her life lessons. Nonetheless, it grew into something else. “Initially it started as a form of catharsis on my off days, however, it evolved to a forum where health workers can get simple tips on healthier mental practices despite challenging work and personal environments. My greatest target is nurses but occasionally even other healthcare professionals benefit from it."
Her latest post is especially useful in providing information on common muscular injuries in healthcare settings and how to avoid them, especially at a time when healthcare workers are over-exerting themselves to provide both COVID and non-COVID care. She refers to instances where healthcare workers lift patients or supplies in ways that strain their different body parts, leading to workplace injuries. As a caregiver, she does not just showcase problems but offers solutions as well. Her suggestions are based on scientific studies, which she references, including World Health Organization recommendations based on the chosen topic. Essentially, Lilian is using her experiences to carry out research and synthesize it in a way that other healthcare workers can understand and learn from to make their own lives better.
Even as Lilian continues to deal with COVID-19 patients at the Hospital, she shares that despite her fear of infection, “This pandemic has brought a lot of things to light". She goes on to say that “Some of the lessons I am learning would have been replaced by other unproductive activities."
As nurses and other healthcare workers labour to save lives, Lilian demonstrates that even in very difficult times, there are still lessons to be learned as well as time for picking up new skills and self-improvement. Through her work, she demonstrates that life can go on even during challenging times. How are you making the most of your lock-down time?
You can read Lilian's blog here.