KARACHI: Nurses and midwives are central to the safety and quality of healthcare across the world and investing in these health professionals means building a resilient health system that can be the first line of defence against any international crisis such as Covid-19, said speakers at a virtual seminar held to celebrate International Nurses Day and 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

During the discussion participated by a range of experts, it was pointed out that nurses and midwives made up the largest group of healthcare professionals and were often the first point of care for individuals and families.

Yet there was a global shortage of these health professionals and the World Health Organisation estimated that an additional nine million nurses and midwives would be needed by 2030 for universal health coverage.

Focussing on the central role nurses play in the healthcare system, they also emphasised the need for supporting and involving nurses at every level, including health policy, to improve health indicators in Pakistan.

“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 Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho.

She also stressed the importance of higher education, affiliating nursing colleges and schools with medical universities to promote undergraduate degrees and 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,” she said.

President of the Pakistan Nursing Council Afshan Nazli also praised the courage and services of front-line nurses and midwives during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“This 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.

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 was 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.”

AKU interim CEO Shagufta Hassan emphasised that in order to reposition the profession, it was equally important for nurses to be able to advocate for themselves and act as equal partners dedicated to improving the healthcare system.

AKU Medical College dean Dr Adil Haider shared that this year’s theme ‘Nursing the World to Health’ very well encapsulated the role of nurses and their ability to rise to a challenge like they were doing at the moment to care for Covid-19 patients.

In their keynote speeches, Dr Salimah Meghani, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and Shelley Nowland, chief nursing and midwifery officer, Queensland Health, Australia, spoke about how nursing and midwifery practices had 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 focussing on the role of nurses and midwives at the time of birth as well as end-of-life care was highlighted.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2020

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