Nursing students bring transformative maternity care to rural Kenya

Pacific students worked with 50 medical personnel in Kenya.

Pacific students worked with 50 medical personnel in Kenya. 

A class project for students in University of the Pacific’s nursing program has led to transformative changes for women and children more than 9,000 miles away. 

“We had to create, research and implement a quality improvement project,” said nursing student Avery Rocha ’24. “It had to be with a community that needed some kind of health improvement.” 

While many of their peers implemented projects in local communities, such as Sacramento and Stockton, Rocha and her teammates opted to travel to Kenya to introduce a project focused on respectful maternity care. 

In Kenya, women face serious challenges during childbirth due to disrespect for traditional practices, poor health care infrastructure and limited access to medical facilities. As a result, many opt to give birth at home without professional assistance.

“We chose to do our project in Kenya because we saw that they needed education about maternity,” said nursing student Jessie Chan ’24. “The maternity and neonatal mortality rate has doubled in the nation in comparison to previous years, so we wanted to see why.”

The nursing students focused on educating medical facilities about dignified childbirth and individuals on how to respect their autonomy and rights. 

The students were inspired by a lecture coordinated by Ann Stoltz, department chair and program director of the nursing program and Katie Rolan, assistant clinical professor.

“When we had a presentation from Dr. Stoltz and a member of Goal 4, which is the foundation that we worked with in Kenya, we were very inspired to work with that community,” Avery said. 

Stoltz serves on the board of directors for, a non-profit organization created to reduce child mortality in Sega, Kenya. 

The students’ trip began in the capital of Nairobi. From there, they took a nine-hour bus ride to the small rural town of Sega where they stayed for a week to work on their project. 

“We provided a respectful maternity care education series to medical staff at four different facilities in Kenya,” said Rolan, who accompanied students on the trip. “Two were in Sega and two were in Busia.”

The group presented pre-recorded videos to local medical staff, facilitated conversations with them and conducted surveys to measure the staff’s knowledge before and after the presentations. 

“The staff there were so receptive. They asked so many questions. They were so open to all these ideas,” Chan said. “Since this education has been given, there has been an increase in facility births. Mothers are coming in to deliver, specifically at Sega Dispensary, which is one of the main facilities we worked at.” 

The students worked with around 50 medical staff members during the trip. 

“Throughout the process, this group had an amazing attitude,” Rolan said. “They were very respectful, considerate and genuinely interested.”

The team, which recently graduated, say the experience solidified their dedication to nursing as their chosen career path, the importance of global health and how seemingly small student projects can impact positive change.