Dr Eunice Ndirangu moderates a session with global nursing leaders during the APN conference
Over two days between November 4-5, 2020, Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) in Pakistan and East Africa collaborated to host the “Advanced Practice Nursing Conference". The virtual conference was conceived to formally engage nursing stakeholders and introduce the Advanced Practice Nursing (APN) Master's degree to East African and Pakistani audiences as well as celebrate 40 and 20 years of AKU-SONAM in Pakistan and East Africa respectively.
Nearly 20 years ago, Aga Khan University began its operations in East Africa.
Some of the School's first nursing students are now leading practitioners, policy-makers and educators in the profession across the region. During her speech, while launching the conference, AKU-SONAM Pakistan Dean, Dr Rozina Karmaliani shared: “Many nurses who are panellists and speakers here today had to leave their countries and families to gain Master's and PhDs" and for some, due to socio-economic constraints, this is never a viable option. Therefore, she added: “This programme will affordably reach nurses in their home countries", a sentiment that was echoed by Dr Eunice Ndirangu, the Dean at AKU-SONAM East Africa. These remarks outlined the importance of the conference and the APN programme to healthcare systems in the two regions.
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global healthcare systems demonstrates that nurses are the backbone of healthcare setups. This is especially true in East Africa where nurses are the primary healthcare workers in community settings, making up about 85.9% of the healthcare workforce in Kenya.
The Conference featured prominent members of the nursing community in East Africa and Pakistan including the President of the Pakistan Nursing Council, the CEO of the Nursing Council of Kenya, the Special Assistant to Pakistan's Prime Minister on National Health Services, representatives from the International Council of Nurses as well as various distinguished Professors from several universities around the world.
The first day featured an address from the Chief Guest, Dr Afaf Meleis, Professor of Nursing and Sociology and Dean Emerita, the University of Pennsylvania who gave three concepts which are crucial to the effective utilization of Advanced Practice Nurses in East Africa and Pakistan. Dubbed “the three I's", Dr Meleis shared that for the APN implementation to be successful, the Schools would need:
Dr Maria O'Rourke, Clinical Professor of Nursing at the University of California San Francisco was the Keynote speaker during the event. She shared lessons from her own experience during the early establishment of an APN framework. Regarding the role of an APN, Dr O'Rourke made it clear that “an APN uses nursing and extends the nursing practice into medical management" and emphasized that an APN “is not a physician's assistant".
Thereafter followed a panel discussion moderated by Dr Eunice Ndirangu on the global perspectives of implementing the APN programme within developing countries. The five panellists were Dr Elissa Ladd (Deputy Director, International Council of Nurses Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nursing Network of the International Academy of Research and Enterprise), Dr Greta Cummings (Dean of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta and the past president for the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care), Ms Edna Kimaiyo (CEO and Registrar at the Nursing Council of Kenya), Dr Rubina Barolia (Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Clinical Practice at SONAM Pakistan) and Dr Rozmeen Shivji (Assistant Professor for Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program at RUSH College of Nursing).
The panel discussion centred on the benefits of the APN role to the healthcare system, involving the various stakeholders in implementation and developing affordable health services to communities to achieve Universal Health Coverage and accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals. Dr Elissa added that it also has career benefits for nurses: “Having the APN programme provides nurses with the opportunities for career advancement and encourages continuing professional development" which is important especially because nurses from developing countries often relocate to developed countries seeking better compensation and career advancement.
There were several other competency-building workshops held by APNs throughout the conference. Attendees included nurses and midwives from Afghanistan, Canada, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, UAE, Uganda, USA and the UK. A recording of the conference can be found here.