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The Dynamic Nurse Mary Wambui Mwaniki, Public Health Nurse, Kangema Sub-District Hospital

In September 2016, Mary Wambui Mwaniki stood in front of a 300-strong audience of esteemed health professionals and guests – including his Highness the Aga Khan – in London and delivered a keynote presentation. “There was a standing ovation when I was done, and later His Highness the Aga Khan personally thanked me. When everyone stood and clapped at the end of my presentation, I couldn’t believe it. It was out of this world! The entire experience was surreal for me,” says the Public Health Nurse from Kangema SubCounty in Murang’a.

“I was at the conference to represent the Aga Khan University alumni, sharing a presentation on the impact of Johnson & Johnson’s scholarship. My presentation was to be a key deciding factor on whether the company would continue providing financial scholarship for students in the University. I must have convinced them because they decided to continue with the programme, and it’s still ongoing to date.”

During her time at AKU-SONAM, Mary was one of the beneficiaries of the instrumental scholarship, which she earned by being the top student in her class. “The scholarship covered three quarters of the school fees,” she elaborates. “This really helped because at the time, my salary from the Ministry of Health wouldn’t have been able to cover the training. I’ll forever be grateful to the Aga Khan University and Johnson & Johnson for making it all possible for me.”

35-year-old Mary is a dynamo – energetic and determined. Coupled with her skills, it is these qualities that have propelled her to the position of Kangema Sub-County Public Health Nurse. She is responsible for overseeing 30 health facilities; 19 of them are government-owned, 3 are faith based and 10 are private.

Her responsibilities include linking the sub-county to the greater Murang’a County in terms of the delivery of health services, making sure that facilities are sufficiently stocked with needed pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical goods, deploying health staff in the public facilities, inspecting the facilities to ensure they maintain standards of service delivery and advising on changes and capacity-building of nurses in the sub-county.

Additionally, she also mentors several nurses in the sub-county: “As a supervisor, my role is to provide support, motivate and mentor the nurses in the health facilities I oversee. Being in a superior position doesn’t mean harassing your subordinates. My approach is to show them that I’m not a boss but a colleague at a different level and we’re working towards the same goals. I have found that it’s more effective to discuss the challenges they have and find solutions together. That way, they love their jobs and are motivated to perform at their best.”

Mary has held this position since 2015, after having been a nurse with the immunisation programme for Murang’a County. Her training at AKU-SONAM earned her her current position. “I was appointed to this position just before I graduated,” she says

While studying for her BScN, Mary gained plenty of skills that help her in her job. “I had my eye on the BScN programme because I knew the training there was top-notch. The training equipped me with indispensable knowledge and skills. With the community diagnosis and problem-solving skills I gained, I managed to raise the rate of immunisation in my sub-county to 82% from 75%,” she explains.

This is just one of her many achievements. Mary continues to be a role model to all those around her, an ideal she plans to keep living by as she challenges herself to reach even greater heights.

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.