IN a refreshing bit of news, eight Pakistani nurses and midwives have been included among the Global-2020 100 Outstanding Women Nurses and Midwives. The list comprises 100 professionals from a total of 43 countries who have been recognised by global agencies including WHO, UNFPA, the International Council of Nursing and International Confederation of Midwives for their contribution to raising healthcare standards across the world. Interestingly, all eight Pakistani nurses acknowledged for their services are graduates of the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. This list comes at an appropriate time; the services of healthcare workers have never been more significant in a world reeling from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As front-line fighters against Covid-19, workers in the medical field have been greatly lauded. However, the discourse — at least in Pakistan — has revolved mostly around doctors, and not enough has been said about the nursing profession whose members are equally, if not more, exposed to Covid-19 as they carry out their duties at various public and private hospitals. Though this worldwide list of 100 best nurses comes at the conclusion of a year-long WHO campaign, it is a good effort towards drawing attention towards the significance of the profession itself.

Indeed, the ambit of services nurses provide, from specialised critical care to family planning at homes, is the bedrock of any country’s healthcare system. It is therefore unfortunate that the government has greatly neglected this profession. The Pakistan Nursing Council has failed to function as an autonomous body due to the indifference of successive federal and provincial governments. This is why very few of the approximately 160 nursing schools in the country provide adequate teaching to students, leaving them untrained and unskilled. In fact, the shortage of trained and skilled nursing staff has been one of the major issues faced by tertiary care hospitals treating critical Covid-19 patients. One hopes that the government invests in producing skilled nursing staff, thus improving the quality of healthcare services overall.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2021

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