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In a Volatile Healthcare Environment, Empowerment is Key for this Kenyan Nurse and her Patients

For Jane Njeri Mugo, healthcare workers equipped with the right expertise, knowledge and skills not only strengthen health systems, but in turn empower patients to manage and own their health.
Jane Mugo photo.jpg Jane Mugo photo.jpg

Jane Njeri Mugo has always been passionate about continuous learning—especially in her 15 years as a nurse. “Knowledge is powerful, we need to be empowered if we are going to do more,” she says. “The only way is to go back to school, in whichever capacity that might be, and equip ourselves to bring the change so that we are always offering safe and quality care to our patients.”

Mugo began her studies in 2003 with a Diploma in Nursing at the Kenya Medical Training College in Mombasa. With scholarship support from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, she went on to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree at the Aga Khan University in Kenya and later enrolled in a master’s program in Advanced Practice in Nursing at the university and is currently finalizing her thesis. In all three pursuits, Mugo has come top of her class.

For more than 20 years, the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa (AKU-SONAM) and the Johnson & Johnson Foundation have partnered to promote and develop quality nursing education in East Africa. This longstanding partnership has led to the graduation of more than 3,100 nursing leaders across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The partnership has also focused on improving internal capacity across a range of fields, increasing inter-regional collaboration, strengthening the image and reputation of nurses, and enhancing the quality of health services.

Evidence-based practice for improved health outcomes

Mugo says her studies, especially at the master’s level, have equipped her with competencies in leadership and management, coaching and mentorship and building strong teams to deal with the volatility and changes in healthcare.

“We are living in a world which is very volatile, unpredictable and complex, especially in healthcare systems, and we do not know what will happen,” she says. “Hence, we need nurses who are visionary, agile and who have leadership and critical thinking skills to be able to make informed and ethical health decisions.”

Mugo shares her expertise with the patients she serves, helping them to build the self-awareness and self-efficiency they need to manage their health with confidence. “The most important thing we can do as nurses is give self-empowerment to our patients and ensure they take part in their health,” she says.

During Covid-19, she played an active role in her local community, ensuring people were aware of the risks and how to take precautions to keep themselves and each other safe. In her current role as a Nurse Case Manager, Senior Analyst at Cigna Global Health, she provides health management coaching and guidance for patients with chronic illnesses. “We employ evidence-based practice, where we rely on the best available evidence and our expertise, and incorporate patient needs and preferences to provide quality personalized care. We focus on each patient’s individual needs, work on the areas where they need guidance, set goals, and review them together so that the patient is empowered to work on their own and take accountability for their own health.”

Although this work is not without its challenges, an empathetic approach goes a long way, says Mugo. “When patients are faced with financial difficulties or are resistant to change, I try to put myself in their shoes whilst educating them. I assure them that we will work together so that they feel supported in leading a quality life. Sometimes, all patients need is for someone to listen and to feel heard. They want someone to show that they care.”

A profession on the upward trajectory

Nursing has come a long way, and although it is not yet where it needs to be, it is on the right path—thanks to institutions like AKU-SONAM, which encourage nurses to go back to school, says Mugo. “AKU-SONAM has a very supportive and approachable nursing faculty, under the expert leadership and mentorship of Professor Eunice Ndirangu. It equips nurses with excellent and quality education and competencies, producing nurses who are empowered all round and who can work locally and internationally. Most nurses who have gone through AKU-SONAM are currently in leadership positions in both private and government health facilities.”

Besides completing her thesis, Mugo has her sights set on a health professional and governance course and a PhD. She is grateful to Johnson & Johnson Foundation for enabling nurses and students to take up the challenge and for providing an opportunity to receive a quality education. Making the scholarship available to nurses and students even from marginalized and neglected areas is helping to promote equity in quality care, she adds.

Mugo hopes more people will pursue a career in nursing and help create a positive perception of the profession. “Nursing is a good and noble profession,” she says. “It is something where you can make impactful change. It is about patients, but it is also about what you can do for yourself and with your life.”