KARACHI: The government of Pakistan has designated 2019 as the year of nursing and is working to enhance the role and voices of nurses and midwives in health policymaking, in recognition of the vital part they play in promoting universal healthcare and in defending women’s rights, said speakers at Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM), according to a press release.

The school brought together policymakers, senior academics and nursing leaders at an event to celebrate International Nurses Day and the International Day of the Midwife.

In a message submitted ahead of the event, Sindh Minister for Health and Population Dr Azra Pechuho said: “The government is taking necessary steps to recognise nurses as equal partners in the healthcare system.”

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The provincial minister noted that nurses and midwives are already playing their part in providing quality healthcare to communities across the country and called on stakeholders to encourage and facilitate efforts to deepen their impact on the healthcare system.

Speakers at the event discussed the launch of new initiatives following President Arif Alvi’s declaration and in light of Pakistan joining the global Nursing Now initiative.

In his keynote speech, Shabbir Hussain, director general of nursing for Sindh, highlighted the crucial partnership between nursing schools, hospitals and regulatory bodies in Pakistan in raising the image, status and role of nurses.

“Nursing is emerging as one of the best professions in the healthcare sector and we are collectively making efforts to improve working conditions for our nurses and midwives to ensure that they can continue to provide quality healthcare services,” Mr Hussain said.

Speakers at the event noted that besides encouraging investment in the nursing workforce and recruiting more nurses into leadership roles, the focus has to shift to research, capacity building and the implementation of best practice.

Dr David Arthur, dean of AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, noted that nurses now had a variety of career opportunities open to them.

“Today’s nurses are seen as educators, researchers and counsellors in addition to working in different healthcare settings,” said Dr Arthur.

“They are also seeking specialisation within nursing in various clinical areas, which further highlights their roles as front-line caregivers and strong patient advocates in all areas within a healthcare facility.”

Nurses had come a long way over the past few decades; they were in a variety of leadership positions in the clinical and academic spheres, and stood ready to support the government’s efforts to achieve targets under the UN sustainable development goals, added Laila Cassum, a senior instructor at SONAM.

The speeches were followed by a panel discussion on the challenges nurses and midwives face in public and private healthcare institutions.

Panellists highlighted the need to increase the proportion of the healthcare budget allocated to the profession and called for more steps to recognise the contribution of nurses and midwives.

Practicing nurses and midwives, students and nursing leaders from educational and healthcare institutions across Sindh were present at the event.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2019