Nurses and midwives make up the largest group of healthcare professionals and are often the first point of care for patients. Investing in them strengthens health systems that can protect against crises such as COVID-19, said speakers at a virtual seminar held to celebrate International Nurses Day 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 Dr Azra Pechuho, Sindh minister for health and population.
She also stressed the importance 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. This would result in highly skilled and competent professionals equipped to take on public health challenges.
There is a global shortage of these health professionals. The World Health Organisation estimates that an additional nine 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.
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’ encapsulates what the nurses do and how they rise to the challenge like they are doing at the moment to care for COVID-19 patients.
Keynote addresses from Dr Salimah Meghani, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Shelley Nowland, chief nursing and midwifery officer at the Queensland Health, Australia, shared how the nursing and midwifery practices have transformed in the past few decades in their regions.