Cancer and palliative care nurses have gathered in Mombasa for the Annual Scientific Conference to address the emerging challenges in cancer nursing.
This is the largest cancer nursing forum in the country bringing together nurses directly involved in patient care, academia, advocacy, and research from all 47 counties.
The conference will be opened by Mary Muriuki, Permanent Secretary, State Department of Public Health and Professional Standards, Ministry of Health.
The event is happening against a backdrop of the ever-rising burden of cancer in Kenya where more than 100 patients are diagnosed with cancer daily putting pressure and a heavy demand on frontline cancer nurses who are the first point of contact for the majority of the patients.
Roselyn Okumu, President of the Oncology Nurses Chapter reveals that the situation has taken a toll on the medics’ mental health including the demand for expertise, skills and knowledge given that many patients present when it’s too late.
“The inevitable workload of dealing with newly diagnosed patients while supporting families to deal with the dying process and surrounding grief calls for urgent investment in mental health for oncology professionals to prevent burnout, emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue among other occupational stressors” she notes.
Although she acknowledges strides made by the government, in infrastructure development and human resources for cancer, more remains to be done she says if we are to avert a full-blown devastation by cancer and other non-communicable diseases. (NCDs).
“Addressing human resource shortages, erratic drugs supply as well as implementing structured debriefing programs is an urgent imperative for the national and county governments” she advises while urging Counties with cancer centers should also provide clear mechanisms for oncology nurses career growth and development.