The Nurse’s Representative David Odada, Clinical Nurse at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi

David Odada’s journey into nursing was somewhat serendipitous. When he graduated from high school he had two family members advising him – his uncle who wanted him to pursue IT and his mother, a nurse, who was advocating for nursing. Timing eventually won out as he applied for both courses and the nursing diploma course began before the IT one. He joined Kakamega Medical Training College in 2004 and his path began to unfold before him.

When he graduated in 2006 he decided to pursue work in Nairobi. His first thought was to try to find a locum position at Kenyatta National Hospital, but again a well-meaning family member encouraged him to think about seeking opportunities beyond the public sector. As luck would have it, a month after attaining his diploma he had secured a contract position at the Aga Khan University Hospital. His diligence led him to full-time employment just three months later.

Transitioning from public school training into private sector employment had its pitfalls, though. Much of the training he had received was theoretical, and he had never seen many of the instruments that he was supposed to use on a daily basis. “I had to learn how to use basic machines like a blood pressure machine, and an electronic blood pressure machine on the job. I knew them theoretically, but I had never physically seen them before. Thankfully I had a patient mentor who helped me learn.” It was a lesson in kindness that has served David throughout his journey as a Clinical Nurse.

When he joined the Advanced Nursing Studies programme that AKU-SONAM began offering in 2009, it was quietly. He applied through the open call process, and only when he started classes did his colleagues find out that he was pursuing an educational dream. After five semesters he graduated once again – this time with a BScN. Along the way he had learnt new things, including administration in nursing.

As a direct result of his programme, David became a member of the Nursing Association of Kenya and within a short time became the representative of the Aga Khan University Hospital nurses to the association. It offered him a chance to serve and support his fellow nurses, advocating for them and bringing back opportunities and lessons that would help build their competencies. “I’ve been able to coordinate and organise several conferences, networks and speakers. And also coordinate nurses’ learning. Being a point person for the department of medicine for continuous nursing education has been extremely gratifying for me.”

Deeply aware of the opportunities and possibilities that education and training bring, David went on to pursue his master’s degree in epidemiology at Kenyatta University. He believes that his continual pursuit of education opens up new frontiers that enable him to serve the patients that he works with each day. “In the medical ward one sees all kinds of conditions; these are patients who are stable, who you can interact with, but you need to be ready to address different types of medical challenges.” With his tenacity and forbearance, there is little doubt that David will ensure he is always equipped to meet the future.

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. 

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.

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