Menbere Hailu – #BeBoldForChange

Sandra_IWD (7) Name: Menbere Hailu 

Role: Nurse and Head of the 
Central Sterile Room (CSR) at Jimma Hospital 

Location: Ethiopia 


When you were growing up what did you want to be?

When I was a little girl, I had tonsillitis and severe headache. It’s hard to remember how many, may be 5 or 6 times. My interest to be a health professional started when I was taken to hospital to seek medical attention for tonsillitis and severe headache. In addition, my family members in the health field – an aunt who is a medical doctor and an uncle who is a nursing director were positive role models who supported me to pursue a medical professional position.

What motivated you to become a nurse?

With this aspiration and attitude, I started involving myself in health fair activities in elementary school. As I grew older and decided medicine was where I was interested, I looked for other areas for involvement. As a high school student, I was part of Red Cross, involved in teaching family planning and also how to raise bees. After high school, I went to Shashamane (another town in the Oromia region, Ethiopia) for nursing school. It was a great opportunity to pursue my childhood dream.

After nursing school, my first role in the hospital was an assignment with the gynecology ward. While it was good to get some experience, I felt as if I was missing out on something else important. I like to be active and involved and felt like nursing on the wards was too slow paced for me. Two personality traits I recognise that push me in everything I do is improving management and being creative. I believed that working in the operating theatre would provide both and how right I was!

I moved on from Shashamane and came to Jimma over 15 years ago. For the first 6-7 years here, I was a scrub nurse. It was rewarding work and I felt important to the overall surgical care of the patient. If there were patients that needed operations after my shift ended, I stayed because I felt I was helping both the patient and the team. I really enjoyed that aspect of the job.

I came to my current position as head of the central sterile room (CSR) at Jimma through an experience I had as a scrub nurse. We had a patient with varicose veins ready for surgery, but found out late that the vein stripper was not available. The missing instrument resulted in shouting and conflict between the hospital staff. At the time there was no defined central sterile department with only one autoclave and two nurses who helped manage it. I recognised that the physical backbone to providing surgical care was the ability to provide clean, sterile instruments. If you are not able to provide this basic function, you are not able to provide surgical care.

After this event, I applied and became the first central sterile processing head at Jimma. It has been a few years, but with perseverance we have grown the department significantly. From our humble start, we have increased the staff size (dedicated staff for washing instruments, inspecting and packing sets) and increased organisation. It has been a great journey and I am proud to be a nurse and the head of CSR at Jimma.

What do you do during a typical day at the hospital? 

I facilitate and manage the activities in CSR through, preparing and providing clean and sterile instruments and operation clothes. I also coordinate the team; providing OR, aseptic and sterilisation techniques for nursing students and staff of nearby hospitals. My other tasks include – providing new instruments for gynecology and surgery as well as providing technical support for OR staff working at the nearby hospitals and designing clothes for surgical activities.

What is the most memorable incident (a patient, or a challenge) that happened to you at the hospital this week?

Sudden failure in autoclave function, which led us to search for other options like using smaller autoclaves and reserved resources at Jimma Hospital and the nearby hospitals.

The theme for IWD this year is ‘Be Bold For Change’, how have you been bold for safer surgery/anaesthesia?

By working in a team, planning and time management, monitoring and evaluation, corrective and preventive actions.

Why is surgery and anaesthesia important for women’s health?

It is a matter of fact that there are different risk factors in (pregnancy, goiter, cancer, trauma/burn etc) associated with women’s routine activities that can lead to surgery. Therefore, surgery is important for women’s health.