If you meet a nurse from Kampala, Uganda, chances are that nurse was touched by the work of Safinah Kisu Museene, an educator who has pioneered nursing education in the capital city. Over the past 15 years, Safinah has traveled the world to learn about effective strategies for clinical teaching and assessment, and she has brought them back home and implemented them at central and eastern Uganda nursing schools. All the while, she has also continued to practice nursing at area hospitals.
Now, she is going national. In May, she was named a commissioner for Business Technical Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) in the country’s Ministry of Education and Sport. In this new position, she is responsible for formulating policies, mobilizing resources, and monitoring and guiding the governance of professional education of all mid-level health service providers in Uganda.
Safinah said, throughout her time as a nurse, she wanted to see a nurse achieve a national level of decision making. “I have worked very hard to be in a position to be that nurse and my appointment to this position has answered my dream”. It’s a big job, but one that she is ready for because of the complex mix of skills she developed in her many years as a nurse educator, administrator, and leader. She adds, “It requires one to be kind, gentle, patient, empathetic and interested in his/her work”.
Safinah also benefited from the knowledge she learned during her Sub-Saharan Africa-FAIMER Regional Institute fellowship, which teaches leadership skills, scholarship, education methods, and which nurtures a supportive professional network. She is also an active member of The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH), through which she has gained international awareness into community-oriented health services education, research, and policy. In addition to attending the TUFH conferences, she has also presented her work. She spoke at two recent TUFH conferences about her experience with a collaborative clinical teaching training program and its influence on nursing preceptors’ self-reported competences and confidence.
“The Network: TUFH emphasizes inclusiveness, equitable resource provision, equitable access to health services, quality of health care, and collaboration—and so does BTVET. So TUFH provides important international support to help us at BTVET achieve our goals in the area of health professional education,” Safinah said.
Safinah started her journey as a clinician and educator early in life, earning registered midwifery certificate (URM) at age 21 and registered nursing certificate (URN) at age age 25. After practicing in Kampala hospitals for a number of years, she then earned her diploma in nursing education from Makerere University and bachelor of nursing degree from Aga Khan University, followed by a master’s in medical education from Moi University. She is currently completing her doctorate in nursing.
In addition to a dynamic work life, she also has a busy home life. Safinah is married and has four children.
When asked why she decided to join nursing, Safinah says it was a calling from God and it was her dream to be a nurse. Safinah has a simple background, but through her hard work and after obtaining good grades after her basic education, she was admitted at the Mulago School of nursing and midwifery (one of prestigious nursing school in Uganda). The decision to become a nurse educator was influence with the perceived shortage of tutors Safinah and her friends experienced when she was double training as nurse. She encouraged her friends to join nursing education at tutors’ training at Makerere University. Safinah’s leadership potential become obvious when she agreed to lead the team that established Kibuli School of nursing and Midwifery in 2005 as a Principal tutor.
As Safinah gets settled in her new job, she looks forward to overseeing improvements in the way that nurses and other mid-level health care providers are trained. She wants to ensure that patients receive access to high quality care whether they live in the capital city or in a small town and rural health facilities. But what drives Safinah’s hard work to improve clinical education in Uganda? She says the smile and joy she sees in her patients and students when they get better. Sometime she provided special intervention to academically weak students and after her intervention the student performance improves, this makes her happy.
Safinah concludes our interview by quoting mother Tereza “Not all of us can do greater things but we can do small with greater love”