The Devoted Caregiver Beth Waweru, Clinical Instructor of the Medical Ward, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi

When Beth Waweru speaks, you hear the years of experience rolling off her tongue. Her words of wisdom echo those of other great minds. Beth believes her work in the health department was birthed by a calling.

“When I completed high school, I saw the need to become a nurse,” she narrates. “My father had been unwell, and seeing him in his state of discomfort gave me the encouragement to equip myself with skills that would make me a professional caregiver.” Her father’s unstable health resulted in habitual hospital check-ins and admissions. It was an emotional time and an even more challenging period financially.

Beth’s desire to pursue nursing was met with her father’s resistance. In his mind, the only career path his children would take was in the educational sector. “My father was a teacher, so he was very adamant in his wanting me to follow in his footsteps.” But Beth’s desire couldn’t be contained. She sent applications to various nursing colleges hopeful that one day she would walk through hospital wards, listening, attending to and advising patients.

It took three years, but it was worth the wait. Beth was accepted to the Clive Irvine School of Nursing in Chogoria in 1997. She put her best foot forward and thrived through the four-year programme. With that achievement secured, Beth decided to volunteer at New Life Children’s Home where after eight months she found herself in pursuit of something more fulfilling – being in an actual hospital.

Her moment to shine came when a friend reached out and asked Beth to accompany her to the Aga Khan University Hospital to submit an application. Beth jumped at the idea – and when she looks back now, she is glad she agreed to go. “When I arrived I informed the person who was available to chat that I had submitted four applications. She probably saw my readiness, and sent me to the ICU department, which only asked me if I was ready to work.”

Barely a day later, Beth was called and requested to report to the hospital as a nurse. She saw no reason to decline and began her dream career. For the first nine months of her tenure, she worked in between the ICU ward and the renal unit, grasping onto names of machines and getting into the caregiving spirit. In 2006 she was awarded as the Best ICU Nurse and the hospital’s Nurse of The Year. This was a big victory. Big enough to push Beth to acquire more. She had seen two of her fellow nurses studying for their degree at AKUSONAM, noticed how efficient and confident they had become, and imagined how much better she would be if she pursued her degree.

Beth joined AKU-SONAM in 2007 with support from both the hospital and the University. She was able to study in comfort and graduated four years later.

Today when Beth looks back at her time at AKU-SONAM, she laughs at her personal milestones. “We learnt with textbooks, but we were also encouraged to critically think about various situations. To add our own understanding beyond what the textbooks said. Immediately after I graduated from AKU, I applied for and was promoted to the role of Clinical Instructor of the Medical Ward.”

Through the AKU-SONAM degree programme, Beth Waweru has gained the confidence she desired. She has continued to live her dream of being a caregiver and is actually diving into the world of academics, hoping to keep her father’s wish alive while still working in the health sector.

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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