Nurses and midwives are the lynchpin 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 defence
against international crises such as 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 master’s 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 specialisation 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 emphasised 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. At the end, the message from experts was that nurses play a
substantive role in improving health outcomes at every stage of life, and so it
is important that they are supported and involved at every level, including
health policy, to improve healthcare indicators in Pakistan.