Loyce Kihungi, who graduated with a BScN degree in 2005, writes a personal essay about how AKU’s nursing education has enabled her to rise to senior clinical positions.
"Gemstones are dug out, cut and processed to become attractive to people. Each gem is unique. It shines in a different way. Gemstones are precious. I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to Aga Khan University for helping me to become a better person, a resourceful person, and a mentor. I am not just another nurse or another worker. My institution has imprinted on my personality indelible marks of excellence, integrity, efficiency, reliability, accountability, adaptability, hardworking, critical thinking, good communication skill, and the list goes on.
As a little girl, I grew up desiring to excel in my studies and join the heath-care team so I could help patients. I did very well in my Primary and Secondary (Form IV and VI) schools exams. I missed the University cut off by one point in my A Level exams, and after a two years’ search for a diploma course, I joined a school of nursing in Nairobi. I graduated with a Diploma in Registered General Nursing after 3-year training. It was during my nursing course I learnt that my dream to study at university for a degree should not die. I realized I still had a chance go to university after interacting with very senior people in health fraternity some of who were doctors but had started off with diploma courses. I resolved that by using my nursing Diploma I would apply for a degree course to further my education in nursing after five years.
I walked into Aga Khan Hospital (now known as Aga Khan University Hospital) more than 20 years ago as a novice nurse, searching for a job which I got on the first day I made inquiries. I worked as a junior nurse in the Accident and Emergency Department. As years passed by my desire to go back to school started fizzling because the universities in Kenya by then, were only offering full-time courses. A full-time course would have been challenging for me due to my responsibilities as a mother. My five-year target to join University just passed. It was not until ten years after my Diploma course that I learnt of the commencement of a part-time degree course at Aga Khan University to upgrade diploma nurses to a degree. I applied, was shortlisted, interviewed for written and oral. I was successful and got the chance to become a pioneer student for Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) at Aga Khan University School of Nursing (AKUSON).
The Aga Khan University Nursing Degree course was very friendly as it was possible for me to continue working, take care of my young family and attend classes for two days in a week. The modular information was delivered splendidly by very well trained lecturers, who treated us in a very respectful manner. Besides learning the subjects I learnt during my diploma course this time in details, there was a lot more learning that engaged me in critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and effective leadership skills. Learning was made possible by the fact that we were able to plan with the university’s Accounts Department on how to pay school fees by installments. Achieving my dream to have a degree and in my nursing career became a reality. I finally completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing and graduated on 20th December 2005.
Learning at Aga Khan University, improved my knowledge, changed my attitude and practice, and transformed my personality. I was promoted to head the Accident and Emergency department before completion of my course. I became completely reliable in my job and matured to run a department of about fifty staff with minimal supervision. During my tenure, the department won several awards in quality audits; furthermore, staff experienced cohesion as a result of my good skills in group dynamics.
Later on, after heading the Accident and Emergency Department for five years, and being in the same department for fourteen years, I desired change. I discussed with my immediate supervisor about wanting to shift to another department, whom with the agreement of the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO), decided to transfer me to the Nursing Education Services office to coordinate Nursing activities. Sometimes later I became the Clinical Practice Educator for the Princess Zahra Pavilion (Medical-surgical ward). After several months in Princes Zahra Pavilion Ward, I moved back to Nursing Education Services department at a time when the hospital was preparing for Joint Commission International Accreditation. The Nursing Education Service was the office charged with responsibility to review existing and development of new policies and procedures documents on nursing practice, all of which I was made responsible for.
Suddenly, the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) office became vacant following the resignation of the IPC officer. The Chief Nursing Officer requested me to become the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator. This by then was not an area of practice well known, and so I was quick to turn down the offer even though the Chief Nursing Officer insisted I don’t give her an answer until after a fortnight. However, before two weeks were over, I started receiving calls from the CNO sending me to investigate cases of infections in the Critical Care Units to verify whether patients were suffering healthcare associated infections or not. With this, it was quite clear there was no turning back, and I accepted the offer by doing what was required of me by the job description. The job demanded a lot of dedication and ensuring time to read to search information to assist me to be efficient and effective.
The BScN Course I did at Aga Khan University prepared me to do my job effectively and deliver excellent results. Remarkably, when I started my new role as Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator, I was sent to Karachi, Pakistan for a practicum in the infection prevention and control department that lasted two weeks. However, as the hospital’s accreditation date approached I traveled to Toronto, Canada for a specialized training in Infection Prevention and Control fully paid up by the hospital.
I have not regretted having taken my degree course at the time I did, and I will forever be grateful to the Aga Khan University for imparting knowledge to me that was beyond coursework. I learnt to be the best in what I do. I have so far been able to provide oversight to the Infection Prevention and Control Program very efficiently. My achievements since I joined University for the Nursing Degree are numerous. Amongst my success stories includes championing for proper Infection Prevention and Control practices across the hospital through the development of evidence-based policies and procedures documents on Infection Prevention and Control, training and monitoring of practice that contributed towards the hospital’s successful Joint Commission International Accreditation in 2013 and recertification in 2016.
In the last seven years of my work as the Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator for the Aga Khan University Hospital, there has been a reduction in cases of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs), and this gives me the greatest job satisfaction. Today, I feel very confident to consider myself an expert in Infection Prevention and Control matters. I have mentored many healthcare providers in this field, doctors, nurses and other healthcare givers within Aga Khan University Hospital and in other healthcare institutions most of whom I get a chance to network with during Infection Prevention and Control Scientific conferences. Courses to train Infection Control Practitioners are only known to exist in South Africa and Overseas, but I have had the privilege of being a co-founder, and a co-faculty of Infection Prevention and Control course started at Aga Khan University in 2015. I have been actively involved by Ministry of Health (MOH) the revision of the National Infection Control Guidelines and development of National Basic Infection Prevention and Control Training Curriculum for Healthcare Workers.
Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are very common but preventable risks to ensure quality and safe patient care. Millions of patients suffer morbidity and mortality due to HAIs. Patients should receive health care without experiencing harm of HAIs through effective Infection Prevention and Control practices and antimicrobial stewardship. The Infection Prevention and Control Safety and Quality goals are to create awareness amongst the healthcare providers’ to improve their knowledge, change attitude and practice, as well as action on the healthcare systems by implementing evidence-based interventions and strategies for quality healthcare. HAIs also include occupational infections among staff.
Infection Prevention and Control is essential, often an under-recognized and under-supported, part of healthcare infrastructure. There are guidelines and substantial evidence regarding best practice, hand hygiene compliance is not optimal, preventable infections occur, and antimicrobial resistance is an increasing challenge. Failure to protect patients from avoidable harm, including HAIs, has legal implications. It is the responsibility of every staff member to practice safely as per set standards.
It is at this point that I must admit I have grown so much professionally. I have acquired a wealth of knowledge and tremendous experience. I have learnt to use my knowledge as well as search for more knowledge after going through my BScN course. As I now leave the hospital, I am happy for whom I am. I am very grateful because I leave my current job to a new one, whereby my primary role will be to train healthcare providers and assist public healthcare institutions in implementation of strategies to reduce the risk of HAIs that result from the commonly observed gap between best practice and care delivered in many healthcare institutions.
I believe I have gone through a huge process since I joined Aga Khan Hospital, most of which was propelled by my BScN course, changing me from a common nurse to a smart, well-rounded nurse, who trusts in God and believes in bringing change in healthcare service to promote quality and safety as we endeavor to save lives.
I will forever be grateful to Aga Khan University and the hospital. I also thank the past and present staff for influencing my professional growth in one way or the other. I leave with a hope to make an impression on others, similar to the one left on me."