Building Capacity of Nurses in Oncology Nursing in the face of a Pandemic

by Amref Health Africa

The National Cancer Institute has cited the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) GLOBOCAN report stating that there are an estimated 47,887 new cases of cancer annually in Kenya, with a mortality of 32,987. The increased mortality comes against a backdrop of limited human resources in oncology. It was noted that as of 2019 there were 36 oncology nurses, against a demand of 500 in Kenya. The closure of institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought significant disruptions to learning across the globe. At the peak of the pandemic, Kenya was among the countries that closed schools affecting over 5 million students. This also led to an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems, workplaces, the education sector and the global economy; it was no longer business as usual. Public health and social measures such as the use of masks, social distancing and a limited number of people in physical meetings were introduced to slow or stop the spread of the disease.

Planned face-to-face training could not take place. It is against this backdrop that Amref Health Africa and Johnson and Johnson Nursing Global Community Impact adopted measures to support remote teaching and learning for the Oncology Nursing Training project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The project was aimed at, strengthening the capacity of health systems to ensure quality management of cancer through training nurses in oncology, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building and generation of evidence for policy and practice change. To achieve this, identified modules were offered through Amref’s e-Learning platform, Jibu, and blended with online teaching sessions for the participants. This has since enabled 20 nurses from the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s, College of Health Sciences, to be equipped with oncology nursing so as to appropriately take care of patients suffering from cancer despite the restriction of face-to-face training. Various stakeholders from Amref Health Africa’s Institute of Capacity Development, Amref Health Innovations, Amref International University, National Cancer Institute, Kenya Medical Training College as

well as Schools of Nursing from Nairobi Hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) worked together to develop and digitize the learning material, available on the Jibu platform.

The digitized training materials were packaged into various units including;

  • Critical thinking and academic writing
  • Fundamentals of oncology
  • Health assessment and diagnostics in oncology
  • Communication and counselling
  • Epidemiology and research methods in oncology
  • Cancer treatment modalities
  • Palliative care in oncology
  • Clinical oncology
  • Applied nutrition in oncology
  • Physical and rehabilitative therapy for oncology patients
  • Principles of cancer prevention and control
  • Community oncology, health promotion & advocacy
  • Strategic leadership and management in health
  • Teaching and instructional design.

As of June 2022, the 20 students from MTRH’s College of Health Sciences had completed the course through this blended approach, awaiting graduation later this year (2022).

Testimonials from some of the beneficiaries

“I was inspired to pursue oncology nursing due to the high disease burden in the country, the gap that exists as well as loss of friends to this disease. Much as there were some challenges with online learning, the information provided on the digital platform was relevant to us and we were able to address some of the challenges through zoom online meetings with our lecturers. The navigation was simple.” Edwin Onyango, Student, MTRH College of Health Sciences.

“With digital learning, the students could challenge themselves since it was self-directed. When they encountered anything that wasn’t clear, they raised it with us for discussion. Digital learning can also work well for working students like those in the Higher Diploma Programme, since they can study at their own time. With improvements, the programme can even be much better for the students.” Sally Serem, Lecturer, MTRH College of Health Sciences.

“In the 21st century, digital learning has become an important factor, more so during this COVID-19 pandemic, where eLearning has improved learning in our country. We appreciate Amref in conjunction with Johnson and Johnson who helped us as oncology nurses to be able to make it by pursuing the course during the pandemic.” Nicholas Mwenda, Student, Nairobi Hospital Cicely Macdonald School of Nursing.

“I enjoyed the diversity that came with online training in this programme! The interaction with students, evaluations and online exams prepared the students for online licensing exams administered by the Nursing Council of Kenya.” Jude Mulandi, Lecturer, Nairobi Hospital Cicely Macdonald School of Nursing.

Based on the learnings from this engagement, Amref Health Innovations, has further redesigned the programme into a 2-week Continuous Professional Development course that will soon be rolled out to complement the blended learning approach.

Writers: Edna Osebe and Caroline Wanjuu, Amref Health Africa in Kenya

Edited by: Joyce Muthoni, Leticia Buluma, Amref Health Africa in Kenya

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