Monday May 27, 2024

The future of nursing

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
May 12, 2017

International Nurses Day is observed on May 12 across the globe to acknowledge the role that nurses play in the healthcare system. Pakistan is home to various humanitarians who have spent their entire lives serving mankind.

The country’s first prime minister Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was one such individual. At the time of his assassination, he was wearing a torn vest – a symbol of his commitment to his work. His spouse Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan played a pivotal role in elevating the social status of nurses. At the time of Independence, hospitals were in dire need of nurses, especially after the mass migration triggered by Partition. As a result, she decided to lead a national nursing movement to encourage people to take up nursing as a profession.

May 12 is also the birthday of renowned English nurse Florence Nightingale – a pioneer of modern nursing, who changed its face, making it a well-respected medical profession. Florence was born in May 1820 in Florence, Italy. Although she was born to a wealthy family, she was known for her selfless nursing work and desire to serve humanity. When she was 12 years old, the question that irked her was how she could justify living a life of comfort when the world was facing so many miseries.

To achieve her goals, she decided to join the nursing profession. The decision was not easy one at the time as the nursing profession in the West was not considered. Despite the intense anger shown by her family, Florence worked in the field of nursing with enthusiasm. She was keenly interested in doing something to reduce the burden of suffering from the lives of those who were helpless.

At the age of 34 years, Florence Nightingale went to nurse British soldiers who were wounded in the Crimean War. She also used to carry a lamp in her hand as she walked through the battlefield hospital and became known as the “lady with the lamp”. On August 13, 1910, Florence Nightingale passed away at the age of 90. But her contribution and service to humanity made her a legend in the eyes of people throughout the world. Even today, after over a 100 years of her death, International Nurses Day reminds many of her great sacrifices. The life of Florence Nightingale shows that a kind heart alone is not enough to serve mankind. Instead, a solid work plan is also essential for success. While a number of hurdles can emerge during the struggle, we must overcome them with open heart.

According to a UN report, there are around two crore nurses serving in various countries while the largest number of nurses work at hospitals in the US. The situation in Pakistan is hopeless as nurses are facing various social and economic problems. Nurses are expected to concurrently play various roles depending on the situation. These include being the caregivers, well-wishers and mentors. But our people continue to hold negative views about nurses. Whenever our female relatives are admitted at the hospital, our first priority is to ensure that a female nurse looks after her. The irony is that we don’t allow our own daughters and sisters to join the nursing profession. When will this dual standards end? When we are aware of the positive role of nursing and healthcare, why is it considered dishonourable when a close female relative wants to become a nurse? The presence of a nurse, no doubt, is a ray of hope for a patient and the role of nurses cannot be eliminated from the healthcare system at any cost.

We need a full-fledged social movement to change mindsets and elevate the status of nurses on the footprints of Florence and Begum Ra’ana. Our negative attitude is creating problems for sincere nurses. The anger shown by doctors and misbehaviour by patients have also badly affected the performance of nurses. During times of extreme inflation, nurses are forced to work for many hospitals at a time. They have to perform duties for long hours, just like doctors. In the case of an emergency, they are expected to perform extra work without receiving incentives. Frequent complaints of exploitation at private hospitals are another issue.

In addition to improving our attitude towards nurses, the government must also pay attention to them on a priority basis. According to media reports, the number of professional nurses who work at hospitals in Pakistan is not more than 70,000. There is a shortage of nurses at government hospitals, especially at ICUs, CCUs, operation theatres and emergency wards.

As per the Pakistan Nursing Council, there are just five institutes providing diploma and degree programmes in the field of nursing. A number of initiatives for nurses – such as establishing world-class nursing institutes and providing scholarships, fellowships and professional exchange programmes – are the need of the hour. An annual nursing award should also be announced at the federal and provincial levels to acknowledge their outstanding contribution of nurses towards healthcare.


The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the
Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani