IND2021 cover

Boosting Healthcare Workers’ Psychosocial Wellbeing through Zumba, Kenya

27 April 2021


Contributors: Edna Tallam-Kimaiyo, Registrar/CEO, Nursing Council of Kenya, and Faith Kanini Mutisya, Deputy Director Nursing Services, Ministry of Health Machakos

Kenya Zumba for healthcare workers

ICN is marking World Day for Safety and Health at Work, 28 April, by bringing you this IND case study from Kenya where the Nursing Council of Kenya initiated a campaign, “Zumba for Nurses” to boost healthcare workers’ mental and psychosocial wellbeing.

Health workers are under immense pressure amidst the Corona pandemic. They are working long shifts, experiencing mental stress and have even been shunned by the community for fear they will spread the pandemic. An ICN report showed that close to 80% of the national nursing associations responding to an ICN survey have received reports of mental health distress from nurse working in the COVID-19 response.

In Kenya, as in many countries across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained health systems with a rapidly increasing demand on health facilities and healthcare workers that threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively. The frontline workers, especially nurses and midwives, are strained from long working hours coupled with mental, emotional and physical drain. Stress has been identified as a factor in poor job performance, low job satisfaction and personal health problems. COVID-19 has brought additional physical, emotional and psychological distress among healthcare workers. In the efforts of managing stress, anxiety and improve task performance, to all healthcare professionals, WHO recommends 60-50 minutes of physical exercise for people working in high-risk stress causing institutions and departments.

In order to manage the psychological effects of the coronavirus among nurses in Kenya and boost healthcare workers’ mental and psychosocial wellbeing, the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK) initiated a campaign, “Zumba for Nurses”. Zumba is one of the most popular and innovative exercise crazes that has engaged millions of people around the world and got them moving for better health and vitality. Zumba is an effective intervention to relive stress, reduce fatigue and improve alertness and concentration enhancing overall cognitive function. In addition, it has been found to prevent cardiovascular disease; burn calories, work out the entire body, boost mood, aid coordination and improve confidence, cognitive and social skills. Zumba allows people of all ages, abilities, and goals to participate and improve their overall health, relieve stress and cope with their anxiety, even helping them overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“Zumba for Nurses” also celebrates the amazing job nurses and midwives do and helps to uplift their spirits during this COVID-19 pandemic. It supports their psychosocial health and honours the critical role they play in primary health care.

Launched at the at Machakos county COVID-19 Mass Screening and Isolation Center on the 20 June 2020, several Zumba events have been held at hospitals throughout the country. The Zumba sessions are complemented by psychological debriefing sessions for health workers, during which the majority of health workers report feelings of distress, increased anxiety, depression and insomnia. This two-pronged method of emotional (psychological debriefing) and physical (Zumba activity) coping strategies caters for each individual coping styles.

Regular meetings with the staff have also proven to be effective. During the meetings, staff have an opportunity to air their fears and concerns which are addressed appropriately, improving the efficiency and cohesion of the team.

The target participants of the Zumba activity are critical frontline health workers in Machakos county, among the most affected counties with COVID-19. While, all health workers are psychologically affected, staff working in the isolation and holding units are most affected and have been receiving routine psychological debriefing sessions.

Participants of the Zumba sessions in Machakos county anonymously completed an assessment tool before the first Zumba session, then completed it again after the last session. Feedback to date from the nurses, midwives and frontline healthcare workers shows that the Zumba sessions have improved their mental state and re-energized them to continue fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as provide primary health care. 100% of respondents reported that the Zumba activities are important for healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants are requesting more activities; a proposal supported by the administration. Participants attest that the Zumba activities are quite effective for reliving functional capacity (98%), keeping healthy (97%) and work-related exhaustion (57%).

As a nursing intervention, the Zumba sessions were coordinated by the Subcounty Public Health nurse; and fully supported and funded by Amref Health Kenya and the Ministry of Health and partners, and have been embraced well by the frontline workers, especially nurses and midwives due to the fact that it relieves stress and helps them cope with their anxieties. The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, has commended the NCK for organising the Zumba sessions that have helped health workers fighting COVID-19 to take care of their own mental and physical health.

Jianbo, Simeng & Ying (2020). Factors Associated with Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. March 23, 2020. JAMA Network Opendoi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976