KARACHI: Nurses and midwives are the lynchpins of healthcare around the world, and investing in these health professionals represents an investment in resilient health systems that can be the first line of defense against international crises such as the COVID-19.
Focusing on the needs of nurses and midwives can also help meet people’s health needs, and expectations said speakers at a virtual seminar held to celebrate International Nurses Day and 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
“The dedication with which nurses and midwives continue to work during these challenging times is exemplary, and, in their absence, healthcare facilities will not be able to function properly,” said Dr Azra Pechuho, Sindh Minister for Health and Population.
She also stressed the importance of higher education, of affiliating nursing colleges and schools with medical universities to promote undergraduate degrees and of encouraging practicing nurses to pursue masters and doctoral degrees while continuing to work. This would ensure the availability of highly skilled and competent professionals equipped to take on public health challenges and to shape the future of our healthcare system.
Nurses and midwives make up the largest group of healthcare professionals and are often the first point of care for individuals and families. Yet, there is a global shortage of these health professionals, and the World Health Organization estimates that an additional 9 million nurses and midwives will be needed by 2030 for universal health coverage.
Ms Afshan Nazli, President of the Pakistan Nursing Council, also praised the courage and services of frontline nurses and midwives stepping up during this pandemic. “The ongoing public health crisis has posed some important questions and challenges to our healthcare and education systems. We need to ask ourselves if our nurses are adequately trained and prepared for such healthcare emergencies,” she said.
The idea of supporting further education and training was debated several times. Dr Rozina Karmaliani, Interim Dean of AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, noted that one of the ways to address the shortage of highly skilled nurses is by creating opportunities for the many nursing diploma holders in the country to complete a bachelor’s degree. “There is a paradigm shift in nursing education and practice. It has now moved into specialization and advanced nursing practices,” she said. “If nursing and midwifery professionals are to keep pace and to meet today’s healthcare demands, it is essential for all practicing nurses to invest in themselves and to build their competencies through continuing education.”
AKUH Interim CEO, Shagufta Hassan, emphasized that in order to reposition the profession, it is equally important for nurses to be able to advocate for themselves and pose as equal partners dedicated to improving the healthcare journey of patients. AKU Medical College Dean Dr Adil Haider shared that this year’s theme ‘nursing the world to health’ very well encapsulates what nurses do and how they rise to the challenge like they are doing at the moment to care for COVID patients.
Keynote addresses from Dr Salimah Meghani, Professor, University of Pennsylvania, USA, and Shelley Nowland, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Queensland Health, Australia, shared how nursing and midwifery practices have transformed in the past few decades in their regions.
Several encouraging video messages from nursing and midwifery leaders across Pakistan were followed by a panel discussion where the unique involvement of nurses and midwives during the time of birth, as well as end-of-life care, was highlighted. In the end, the message from experts was that nurses play a substantive role in improving health outcomes at every stage of life, and so they must be supported and involved at every level, including health policy, to improve healthcare indicators in Pakistan.