Untapped Talent


In July 2007, Charity Njuju retired from more than 20 years as a nurse with the Kenyan Ministry of Health. Despite the Kenyan law mandating nurse retirement at the age of 50, Charity felt she had many productive years ahead of her. Just as she finalized her retirement paperwork, Charity heard from former colleagues about an opportunity they’d taken advantage of: to become a Sustainable Healthcare Foundation (SHF) franchisee.

“I could tell from the way they looked and the way they dressed that they were comfortable,” Charity recalls with a laugh. “I also knew that as a trained nurse there was a need of helping people. I can’t stay at home and do nothing when there is a need.”

Charity and her retired colleagues represent one of the less obvious benefits of the SHF model: employing the skills and experience of retired nurses that would otherwise go to waste. After retirement, many nurses provide informal services in their homes, but their skills often are under-utilized. Furthermore, while retired nurses receive a small monthly payment from the government, this income is insufficient to support a family. The opportunity to earn a living while continuing to contribute to community health is a powerful combination that encourages nurses to continue working.

The SHF network is attractive to Charity and her retiree colleagues for a number of reasons:

  • Quality, Affordable Drugs: SHF sources its drugs from the Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS), a non-profit supplier of generic medications. As a nonprofit, MEDS is able to provide medication at prices ten to fifteen percent lowed than other wholesalers.
  • Training and Support: SHF offers training as well as ongoing professional education for its nurses. Franchisees also receive regular mentoring and support from trained field officers who visit outlets bi-monthly.
  • Professional Network: SHF offers the opportunity for its franchisees to become a part of a broader network (currently 65) other providers. “When you are on your own it can discourage you,” says Charity.

Today, Charity’s St. James Clinic, which she named after her husband, is completing its first successful month of operation. Charity proudly announces that she treated over 250 patients and is confident that she can be among the best SHEF franchisees.

Charity is beaming with pride as she provides a tour of her clinic: a small waiting room with shelves of hygiene products ranging from small blue bottles of Waterguard to “Marvel Baby” diapers, and a consultation room where she treats patients. Charity selected the location, near Embu in central Kenya, based on her community ties, population density and the fact that the local dispensary is often congested and out of drugs.

Charity sums up the potential of St. James Clinic: “I can provide a better quality alternative, and so I know I can compete.”

The use of talented retired nurses could increase the potential of – and support for – health franchising, in Kenya and beyond. While Kenya has an abundance of qualified nurses, other countries in the region face extreme shortages. Private sector solutions are often criticized for pulling talent away from strained public systems; this conflict does not exist in the case of retired nurses, whose skills would otherwise be underused. Offering retirees an opportunity to generate income while providing valuable care for their communities could help to increase the number of providers in countries where access to essential drugs and care remains limited.

One Response to “Untapped Talent”

  1. Bethany Says:

    What a beacon nurses like Charity must be to their patients and the people with whom they come into contact. SHF sounds like a wonderful organization.

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