Health Worker Spotlight: Leah Mwakinyuke, Kyela District, Tanzania

Leah Mwakinyuke
Health Facility Agent-Leah Mwakinyuke at Tenende dispensary in Kyela district.

Leah Mwakinyuke always knew she wanted to be a nurse. It was the white uniform, the white hat. In fact, Leah says she would even take a nursing job without pay. She worked hard to overcome barriers to achieve her dream. She was married and living as a housewife before attending school and taking a position at the Tenende Dispensary in Kyela district. “I faced family challenges that brought difficulties in my life. This propelled me to go back to school. I then went for medical trainings, which I completed successfully. I joined and volunteered in a dispensary for three years before being employed as a nurse,” Leah said. “My life story has been a testimony to many women over how they can overcome difficulties and excel in their careers.”

As a health facility agent, Leah works in the dispensary, manages the cleanliness of the environment, and serves clients with health care challenges in addition to responding to concerns in the greater community. She is proud to serve as a civil servant and has found that working in health care often means addressing interrelated client needs. “…Most of our community members are smallholder farmers whose income depends solely on agriculture,” Leah said. “Thus, I always sensitize and emphasize to community members, especially pregnant women, to keep financial savings during harvest season a number one priority [rather] than for traditional celebrations. This will support them to meet health costs when required and avoid unnecessary death due to lack of money to pay for health care.”

Leah uses her knowledge of Community Health Funds to educate community members about the advantages of enhancing access to affordable, equitable health care access. “I was lucky to be one among the first persons who received training on community health insurance funds from the International Center for Development and Research,” she said.

Unlike other facilities, the Tenende Dispensary is open to patients around the clock. Leah stays in the health facility residence so that she is available to clients with health concerns after normal working hours. The long hours can be challenging and she finds it difficult to attend to personal issues because of the demands of her job. In addition, nurses often play multiple roles. “In 2016 I was left all alone at the dispensary due to the departure of the doctor, who was attending studies, and midwife, who was attending a family problem for almost a year. This forced me to discharge more duties to bridge the professions and meet the patient demand.”

Leah counsels patients about the benefits of modern medicine. Recently she worked with a patient who had been relying upon traditional medicine, herbal remedies, to treat her severe chest pain. “I had to first clear the patient’s doubts over the ideology of the modern medicine inefficiencies by convincing the patient that I’m much more than the traditional doctor,” she said. The patient experienced relief with treatment and rest in the clinic.

Leah’s approach to listening to the patient and offering reassurance and education about modern medicine has worked well for her. And it’s an approach she’ll continue to employ. “I have no difficulty in getting others to accept my ideas,” she said. “This is because we always plan participatory [together] and avoid unnecessary differences during implementation.”