A mental health nurse Irine Jebitok who initiated Mental Health Department at Kapsabet County Referral Hospital (KCRH) in Nandi County has been recognized for her outstanding role in helping patients suffering from mental illness.
The 48year old psychiatric nurse who reside at Arwos village was recently awarded as the Nurse Led Initiative of the year by Beyond Zero Campaign, a brain child health programme run by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.
Psychiatric nurses are specifically trained nurses who care for the psychological and physical wellbeing of people with health conditions or behavioural problems.
They also assess and plan nursing care requirements, visiting patients at home to offer guiding and counselling and administering medication.
Jebitok who has worked at the facility from 2013 after abandoning Nursing which was her initial career narrated that confidence, determination and courage enabled her to work in the field feared by many.
“Since most of the health practitioners had no knowledge on the mental health, I was forced to serve all the patients referred to the institution,” she said at Kapsabet town.
Having finished her secondary education in 1992 at St Theresa of Avila, then Ndalat secondary school, she pursued her dream of becoming a nurse by joining Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Kisumu.
“Since there was shortage of nurses in my community, I took the medical course so that I could help my people who were travelling long distances to seek medical services,’ pointed Jebitok.
She first worked at Kapsisiywa Dispensary for over eight years, then she was transferred to Nandi Nursing offices where she worked until 2012 where the district hospital started to be transitioned to County health hospital.
It was then that Jebitok changed her career after seeing how patients with mental illness were suffering due to lack of treatment.
“Mentally ill patients when admitted, they were injected a dose to make them sleep in the hospital beds to minimize the disturbances they were causing in the wards. It was really a bad scenario,” she said.
After feeling their pain, the thought of going back to class rang my mind and that’s how I applied for a psychiatry study scholarship where I secured a slot.
The training was offered at KMTC Mathare, under department of psychiatric nursing between 2012 and 2013.
She came back and initiated the department of mental health at Kapsabet Hospital. It attracted a lot of patients who lined up at the facility to get the rare medical assistance they were lacking.
Despite the national government consideration of the mental health care, Jebitok said it was not a walk in the park. She had to endure a lot of things.
Jebitok, a mother of two noted that mental health goes beyond giving out medical attention to the patients. One has to offer moral support, close monitoring and follow up of their medication process and training the families on how to handle and manage persons with mental disorders.
The psychiatric nurse said mental challenges affects every person in the families through mental depression and people should not shy away from visiting health facilities for proper treatment.
Mental health has been the most devastated sector in the public facilities which according to Jebitok, lack of financial support is the primary challenge that has hindered treatment of the patients in the region.
“The mental health has not been considered as a significant health aspect despite having thousands of people who are undergoing medication. It is my appeal that the mentally ill people should be given a quality and effective medical care,” said Jebitok.
According to her, over 4000 persons with mental ailments are currently under medication at the facility adding that her efforts as being the first initiator has paid off.
“The reward is the recognition of my determination to serve the community and fighting off stereotypes against mentally challenged persons. Many have fully recovered and embarked to their economic activities,” she said.
Jebitok noted that her life has been tightly fixed to serving specifically persons with mental challenges and now she has eight personnel working with her in the department of mental health.
Nandi County Executive Member for Health Ruth Koech admitted that Jebitok has been a key player championing for the health services and care for persons with mental challenges.
By Linet Wafula