How aging nurses affect Kenya’s health care – study

By Gatonye Gathura

The high number of aging female nurses in Kenya’s health sector may be negatively affecting service delivery, suggests a recent study in 13 public health facilities.

The study involved 239 menopausal female health workers most of them nurses and with a similar number of controls aged 40-60 years.

Among menopausal women, work productivity was reduced by 38 percent compared to 18 percent among non-menopausal women.

The study authors from Kenyatta University, Nairobi had assessed productivity against absenteeism, presenteeism- the aspect of reporting to work when sick or not up to it, and general activity impairment.

The study carried out in Kiambu County, reported higher work absenteeism among respondents in menopause than those who were not in menopause.

“Time spent away from work due to health problem was higher for women in menopause compared to women not in menopause,” said the study appearing in the African Journal of Health Sciences.

Women in menopause were shown to ask for more time off at work (sick offs) due to health reasons which affected their individual productivity and work performance.

More than two thirds, 67 percent of the women in menopause reported impairment work productivity of moderate to severe compared to 27 percent of women, not in menopause. The study was led by Edith Mwangi, a Masters student at Kenyatta University.

The authors argue that since menopause affects women who are highly experienced in their specialties it has a huge impact on the overall workplace productivity, especially in careers with high female engagement.

In Kenya, it is estimated there are about 31,896 active nurses in all types of health outlets including public, private, faith, NGO and parastatals’ facilities. Of this, more than 80 percent are females, according to the Kenya Nursing Workforce Report 2012.

A 2014 study by Kenya’s Ministry of Health said of the 16,371 nurses in the public non-tertiary sector, 76 percent were women.

In 13 of the 47 counties over 80 percent of the public sector nursing staff, the report said were women.

The largest group of nurses, 35 percent was aged 40 to 49 years with the average age at 44 years.

Forty-six counties had over 50 percent of their public sector nursing workforce aged below 50 years, but in 20 counties over 30 percent of these nurses were aged 50 years and above. Only four percent of the nurses were aged below 30 years.

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