Integrating Spiritual Care into Maternity Care at a University Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya

Challenges, Lessons and Way Forward


  • Paul Nyongesa Moi University
  • Eunice Kamaara Moi University
  • Hazel O. Ayanga Moi University
  • Joseph Mothaly Moi University
  • Simon Peter Akim Moi University
  • Steven Ivy Moi University
  • James Lemons Indiana University



Hospital chaplains, clinical pastoral education and care, quality of care, holistic healthcare, self-empowerment


Spiritual needs of care seekers, families and caregivers are ignored in maternity care in health facilities in Kenya. The quality of care remains poor with unacceptable maternal and neonatal mortalities. The Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Project at the College of Health Sciences of Moi University Eldoret, Kenya, aimed to integrate spiritual care into maternity care at The Riley Mother and Baby Hospital of The Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), Eldoret, Kenya, in order to provide holistic healthcare. In phase I, spiritual needs of mothers of neonates admitted to the Newborn Unit at the MTRH in Eldoret, Kenya, were assessed using a research protocol with modified North America validated tools (see Appendix) and unstructured interview guides. For phase II, hospital chaplains, trained using a Moi University post-graduate diploma curriculum for clinical pastoral education and care, were engaged as spiritual caregivers at the Hospital. In phase III, the same tools were used to re-assess spiritual needs after introducing spiritual care. This article presents challenges and progress made, lessons learnt from the CPE Project and knowledge gaps identified from the study. Baseline data showed lack of trained hospital chaplains and inadequate spiritual care at the Teaching and Referral hospital despite great need by patients, caregivers and families. Lack of precise definitions, theoretical and conceptual frameworks for spirituality in literature emerged as a challenge. The Kenya Chaplaincy Training Centre was initiated at the hospital to train hospital chaplains and healthcare providers who could provide spiritual care. A psychobiosocial conceptual framework, utility tools and a new theory for self-empowerment were proposed to address knowledge gaps in current literature.

Author Biographies

  • Paul Nyongesa, Moi University

    Dr. Paul Nyongesa is a Senior Lecturer and Tutor in the Dept. of Reproductive Health at Moi University, Eldoret Kenya and also a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist with Clinical Duties in the Division of Reproductive Health, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret, Kenya. He is a member of The Eldoret Clinical Pastoral Education Committee.

  • Eunice Kamaara, Moi University

    Eunice Kamaara is Professor of Religion. She holds a PhD in African Christian Ethics and a Master of Science degree in International Health Research Ethics. She currently serves as a member of the Ethics Review Board of Médecins Sans Frontières. She is interested in research on religion/spirituality and health.y

  • Hazel O. Ayanga, Moi University

    Hazel O. Ayanga is Associate Professor of Religion. She obtained her Bachelor’s and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Nairobi. Her PhD is from Moi University and her Post-doctoral degree is from Yale University, New Haven, USA. Her current research interests include religion, culture and social change science and religion dialogue and Clinical Pastoral Education.

  • Joseph Mothaly, Moi University

    Joseph Mothaly is an ordained Minister with The Presbyterian Church of East Africa. He graduated from The Presbyterian University in 1990. He is a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor at The National Chaplaincy Training College in Eldoret, Kenya.

  • Simon Peter Akim, Moi University

    Simon Peter Akim is a Catholic Priest, born in 1973, ordained in 2006. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a post-graduate diploma in clinical pastoral education. He has vast experience in pastoral ministry having served in 7 parishes in Kenya. He currently serves as a professional hospital chaplain at The Moi Teaching and Referral hospital in Eldoret, Kenya.

  • Steven Ivy, Moi University

    Dr. Steven Ivy has now retired from IU Health and Values. He was an Affiliate Professor. He served as a Senior Vice President for Values, Ethics, and Pastoral Services of Indiana University Health. In addition he taught ethics and spiritual care classes for Christian Theological Seminary and for the Indiana University School of Medicine. His career of about 40 years of service focused on spiritual care and chaplaincy, clinical pastoral education supervision, and medical ethics consultation.

  • James Lemons, Indiana University

    James Lemons, MD, is Professor of Clinical Paediatrics. He is the Emeritus Hugh McK. Landon Professor of Paediatrics and former Director of the Section of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, USA. The Section is a nationally and internationally recognized newborn intensive care programme and is one of the largest in the country, providing state-of-the-art care for approximately 10,000 newborn infants and their families each year. He also spearheaded the establishment of The Riley Mother Baby Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya with a Maternity Unit, Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a Mothers’ Hostel and a National Chaplaincy Training Centre, the first of its kind in Eastern Africa.


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How to Cite

Nyongesa, P., Kamaara, E., Ayanga, H. O., Mothaly, J., Akim, S. P., Ivy, S., & Lemons, J. (2020). Integrating Spiritual Care into Maternity Care at a University Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya: Challenges, Lessons and Way Forward. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 7(2), 168-215.