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Director of Nursing - Mater Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya

I am Director of Nursing in the Mater Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. The hospital was set up in 1962 to provide medical care for the indigenous Kenyans as the Aga Khan University hospital took care of the wealthy, and the Nairobi Hospital took care of the Europeans. It was built on a 12 acre mosquito infested industrial area of the city. The school of Nursing & Midwifery was set up in 1972 and it is named after Catherine McAuley. Catherine herself went out and looked after cholera patients in Dublin. She also empowered women, especially those who were vulnerable.

This provides a backdrop for my work in the Mater Hospital today. I trained as a Nurse in 1983 and did my midwifery in 1985. I qualified as a Kenya Registered Community Health Nurse in 1990. I worked in Kibwezi, Makueni, the Mater hospital, Njoro Clinic and Mukuru Promotion Centre. My work brought me in contact with the sick and poor who needed compassion and healing of mind and body. The services which were provided improved the quality of life of the patients in our care. With the rise in incidence of HIV and AIDS, and illnesses and diseases related to them, the plight of vulnerable women and children became an issue. Poverty and lack of proper nutrition and medication meant that the poor were further marginalized.

I did my Masters in Adelaide in 2004-2006. When I returned to Kenya I took on the position of Director of Nursing in the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing in the Mater Hospital in Nairobi. I am also a member of the Management team in the Mater Hospital. The values of Mercy underpin the ethos of the hospital and nursing education.

An important aspect of the life of the hospital is the annual Heart Run. This money raised provides funds for children who need heart surgery but cannot afford the expensive procedure. Over 90 operations had been performed last year on children needing heart surgery. Last year 15,000 participants raised Kshs 9 million, enabling 113 surgeries and 65 catheterizations to be performed.

Sr. Maria with students at the School of Nursing

My work as Director of Nursing involves ensuring that standards are maintained and that each student attains to their ability. It involves monitoring the students, setting and correcting exam papers, interviewing new students, and generally ensuring that the school operates effectively. In my role the pastoral aspect is very important as I am brought in contact with the tragedy of the AIDS sufferer, or the victim of the recent election clashes or the consequence of poverty, so common in our country, and the gift of compassion is a pre requisite in these circumstances. The School has 150 students, and twenty staff members. An important aspect of my role is the pastoral presence to students and staff.

Education of girls was not a priority up to recently but since 2000 Primary education was free and some poorer students were fortunate to have been sponsored for Secondary education. If a student nurse of promising ability cannot afford to pay the fees, I am fortunate that I am able to provide funds so that this young person can avail of a nursing training. This means that they have a good job prospect. In Kenya jobs are not easily available, so training as a nurse nearly guarantees a job. What is also important is that it can help other members of their families to be educated. It also provides avenues for further training in the medical field.

I am involved at Board level with Mutomo Hospital, Kibwezi Dispensary, Makadara Clinic and Mukuru Promotion Centre. All of these provide medical care for the poor, and have developed extensive services for AIDS and HIV suffers. Some of these services are possible because of the grants available through Catholic Relief Services, a United States funded project. Testing, counselling, anti retroviral drugs and nutrition supplements are available at these centres. It means that people can now live with AIDS, they need not not die.

I am also aware of belonging to the bigger Mercy family. I am conscious of our founding story and of global Mercy. I am thankful for the support I have experienced both financial and otherwise. In this time of global interdependence, I find it very encouraging that ways are being created in our Mercy global family to bridge the increasing gap between the rich in the first world and the poor in my world.

Sr. Maria Ngui

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