The Diligent Midwife Unit Manager, Maternity Ward, The Aga Khan Hospital, Kisumu

Agnes Ojok has been working at the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu ever since she graduated with a diploma in nursing from the Kenya Medical Training College in 2009. The young girl who constantly admired how her aunt – a nurse – carried herself has blossomed into an outstanding nurse and midwife herself.

Three years after joining the hospital as a Locum Nurse, the hospital awarded scholarships to Agnes and a few of her colleagues to pursue a BScN at the AKU-SONAM. Agnes was elated: “I felt so honoured. I was really fascinated when we were taken through orientation. Everything sounded very new and exciting. I think I experienced culture shock because of the high standards. It was very different from my previous training college.”

Initially, the lecturers would travel from Nairobi to Kisumu. There was no campus in the lakeside town so the hospital allocated the students a room that served as a classroom for one or two weeks of instruction every month. Later, the system changed and the students were required to travel to the capital city for their lessons. Agnes remembers: “I would travel with my newborn baby and the house-help. We would live in a hotel for up to three weeks. It was tough, but I did not want to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to better myself.”

The hectic schedule notwithstanding, Agnes was determined to take in as much as she could: “I really enjoyed Biostatistics, Biochemistry and Academic Writing. The richness and newness of the content excited me. We would write term papers, which really sharpened my writing and research skills.”

Her diligence paid off. In March 2015, she graduated with an BScN: “I came back to work a changed person. I was so knowledgeable. I can now confidently make nursing diagnoses. I was able to lay down a proper care plan for a patient and follow it through. I even inspired the other nurses to go upgrade as they were always impressed by how I handled my responsibilities and the expertise I displayed.”

Agnes is passionate about midwifery. Nothing inspires her more than bringing new life into the world and hearing that first cry from an infant. However, maternal and child mortality is still a thorn in the flesh in many areas across the country.

“As a result of my training, I have excellent skills and hands-on experience in managing postpartum haemorrhage, the numberone cause of maternal mortality in Kenya. I have been able to mentor student nurses as well as new nurses on preventing haemorrhage and managing hypertensive conditions.”

A master’s degree in reproductive health is one of the things Agnes would like to achieve in the near future to sustain her excellence in the nursing industry. “I have a vision of becoming a teacher or a lecturer. I want to see the number of people taking on midwifery increase. We need qualified staff who are equipped with resuscitative skills because mothers are dying out there due to complications during birth.”

For now, Agnes leads a team of nurses and midwives as they work to ensure mothers and babies receive the best care possible.

Nurses and Midwives - Leaders in Healthcare in East Africa story series reflect the depth and diversity of the nursing and midwifery profession in East Africa. Download a copy of the coffee book for free here

Finding, capturing and documenting these stories was a collective effort of many individuals and institutions. At the very beginning were the investments made by the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW), the Lund Family and Rotary International that brought the nursing and midwifery training programme to life.

These partners provided scholarships, support for programme development and faculty investments that were pivotal in enabling the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) to recruit a diverse set of students and build innovative, pragmatic academic programmes

We hope that these stories will continue to inspire, challenge and show the power of nurses and midwives for years to come.