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Counseling passion led me to palliative care

Author: Aquinas Nyakundi
30 July 2014
  • Mary Otieno; palliative care nurse at Homa Bay District Hospital

The team at the hospital picked her to attend a palliative care training having seen her potential in counseling. Meet Mary Otieno.

Mary Otieno joined the nursing fraternity in 1982 and has since grown to be a qualified counselor in many areas pertaining health.

With these great skills, the team at Homa Bay District Hospital requested her to attend a palliative training organized by Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) aimed at training health care workers to prepare them for integration of palliative care services within the hospital.

“I believe they saw my potential having gained experience in counseling skills over the years and the confidence they had in me to be part of the palliative care program at the hospital,” says M/s. Otieno.

She did not manage to attend the first training since she was on leave. A colleague was sent on her behalf.

When Mary reported back to work, she was briefed by her colleague about the training and this raised Mary’s interest in the field of palliative care.

“I asked not to be left out whenever another opportunity arose so as to equip myself on this care as briefed by my colleague,” she says.

With this request at hand, Mary was chosen to attend the Most Significant Change training held in Nairobi and later was trained under the Training of Trainers in Homa Bay by the KEHPCA team.

“I gained lots of knowledge I never had besides working in a set up requiring palliative care. I found out that it is useful to talk to patients with life threatening illnesses, their relatives and using the pain ladder to manage patients’ pain,” says Mary.

Mary adds that she has been able to refer patients to relevant departments with the wide knowledge she has for further advice for quick intervention for possible early diagnosis.

She says that the training has since enhanced her skills to be among the 20 health care workers under the palliative care umbrella at Homa Bay District Hospital.

“We have realized there is a gap in spiritual care to complement our holistic care to palliative care patients but as we look forward to identify a spiritual leader to support us, we are currently filling the gap ourselves since we are all Christians,” says Mary.

She says that for cases where patients require home based care, they network with spiritual leaders in their regions to offer spiritual nourishment.

According to Mary, most people see patients with life limiting illnesses as people not deserving much care because they have limited time to live.

“This is a chronic illness and the patient is suffering every day. This person will be miserable, harsh and hard to deal with. If we control their pain, they are able to positively think about their families as well,” says Mary.

She says that they are seeing change even among health care workers. “There is no one crying in pain without attendance since we have the drugs whose supply we get from KEHPCA and with the government supporting in the purchase of morphine, we are hopeful that we shall always have enough for our patients.”

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