Podcasts: Meet Our Researchers

Gregory Omondi

Gregory Omondi talks about his interest in research while highlighting the work he does at the KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme. He works on Health Systems Research - Improving quality of new-born services in Kenyan health facilities. His main area is on ergonomics that unpack the complex tasks performed by nurses in the newborn units. 

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust research programme

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme is a major Wellcome Trust’s overseas programmes. Its work has had a major influence on national and international health policy. Research spans a wide variety of topics and disciplines including research on malaria and bacterial and viral infectious diseases, work to map disease risk and intervention coverage and work on research ethics and health systems strengthening.

Gregory Omondi: Improving quality of newborn care

My name is Gregory Omondi and I am currently based at KEMRI Wellcome Trust in the Nairobi office. I got involved in research during my undergraduate training, undertaking the Bachelor of Science in nursing studies at the University of Nairobi.

In my second year, one of my professors introduced me to some of the research activities that were taking place in the university, specifically research that was around trying to find out how we can find a vaccine for HIV-AIDS. I thought that was very interesting so I got involved and I became a peer leader at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative. I started talking to my colleagues and tried to encourage them to get involved more in research, and went on to take responsibilities in communicating the programme and trying to recruit people from the community to take part in the various studies in the programme as well.

That formed a strong basis for me to take on research activities. I took on other responsibilities, mainly in research, cutting across from non-communicable to communicable diseases, and recently in health systems research where I am currently working on health systems and trying to look at improving the quality of services that newborns get in Kenyan health facilities. This work involves mainly talking to the nurses and trying to find out the work that they do while caring for sick newborns, how much time they spend when doing that work, and the opinions on the criticality and difficulty levels of the work that they do, and also how often they get to do, or not get to do, some activities given the nature of the settings.

Understanding this information in context helps to try and come up with ways to improve care delivered to sick newborns so that they get quality care even given the limited resource nature of those settings. The work that I am currently involved in specifically, and some of the findings that we have come up with have been very helpful, is trying to look how nurses do certain specific tasks in the neonatal settings. The methods that we’re using are predominantly used in nuclear power generation, oil and gas, and it’s very interesting to employ those methods in neonatal research and find out more details and insights into our tasks at hand.

These are called human factors/ergonomics methods, or simply ergonomics methods. They help to unpack the complex nature of tasks that nurses do while caring for sick newborns. If you delve deeper into these tasks then you are able to re-design the way nurses do their work or even shift or share some tasks so as to find ways to make nurses provide quality care to the newborns. We are trying to look at aspects of task shifting and task sharing, and ergonomics methods are really helpful in trying to understand these tasks specifically and try to highlight issues of safety and quality while sharing or shifting tasks.

This research is important because if you are able to share or shift tasks, then the few nurses that are available are able to concentrate on more skilled work or tasks that require higher skill levels and are closely linked to better patient outcomes, so that we can eventually reduce the neonatal mortality levels. I think, for those who are looking to get into research, research is a very interesting area. Ever since I was introduced to it I have been doing it, and you get to see your work and how it impacts the world, even in very small context and it’s really fulfilling.