International Nurses Day was on May 12, and the theme this year is “Closing The Gap: Millennium Development Goals 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1” – a message to remind us of the looming 2015 deadline to achieve these goals. Nurses make up the majority of the world’s health care profession and are integral to the provision of care and treatment to the sick. Often, nurses are the only health professionals’ people receive care from in their lifetime. This is especially true in a developing world setting where health care professionals can be hard to access. As International Nurses’ Day is this week, we want to emphasise the amazing work nurses around the world do for the sick and dying to help ‘close the gap’.
The ISIS Foundation works with many incredible nurses at Kiwoko Hospital who go above and beyond to care for their patients. Here, we introduce to you one such nurse Sr. Ruth, who is the new head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
I was born premature, around four weeks early. After working in the Kiwoko Hospital NICU for the past seven years I now know how lucky I am to have survived. When I was born my mother did what she could to keep me warm with clothes she had in the home. I was also breastfed, which helped me to get all the antibodies and nutrients I needed, and protected me against many illnesses. When I was too tiny to breastfeed, she expressed milk into my mouth. I was also lucky because she made sure I received all my vaccinations to protect me from diseases that kill thousands of infants and children each year.
The quality of medical services has improved greatly since I was born. There are now more options for mothers to give birth in safer settings, like Kiwoko Hospital. Here mothers and their babies are cared for by skilled nurses, midwives and doctors. Today, in the NICU, there are many ways that we help to improve the chances of a premature baby to thrive. We teach mothers the nurturing and bonding powers of skin-to-skin contact through kangaroo mother care and provide education on the importance of immunisations. We also now have high quality equipment, donated by ISIS, which keeps babies warm and can treat incidences of jaundice, which can be deadly for a new born baby if gone untreated. The care in the NICU helps to assure mothers and their premature babies have the best possible chance at life.
Despite these gains, we are still a long way off reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially Goal 4 (Reducing child mortality) and Goal 5 (improving maternal health). There are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the shortages of staff compared to the huge number of patients in need. There are oftentimes around 10 patients being looked after by one nurse. International Nurses Day reminds us that nurses and midwives are needed now more than ever, especially if the world is going to reach the MDGs.
Despite the challenges we face every day, there are times when I am so thankful that I made the decision to be a nurse. In 2006 I was caring for baby who was oxygen deprived at birth who was just a few days old and quite unwell. The baby’s mother was coming into the NICU regularly to feed him, and on this particular day when the mother finished feeding and put the baby back in his bed, she did not notice that his airways had become obstructed and that he was not breathing. As I moved around the ward that day checking on the babies, I noticed his face had changed colour and he was turning blue. I checked his breathing and discovered he was unconscious. Alerting the mother, I rushed the baby to the resuscitation area, and thankfully managed to revive the infant. The mother was very distraught. After the incident I explained to her how this had happened and how to prevent it in the future which calmed her nerves. Eventually, the baby improved and was discharged from the NICU. He is now a big boy who goes to school! Victories like this make me feel so proud that I chose this career path.
I was 20 years old when I started nursing. I was motivated by a desire to help the sick recover and go back to living their lives. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a patient under your care improve and get discharged home. I feel empowered through my role to help those in need but hope that in the future nurses will be able to take on more responsibilities in caring for their patients.
DEBBIE LESTER – CLINICAL PROGRAMMES AND COUNTRY DIRECTOR, USA
In countries with low resources nurses are the main service provider. Nurses deliver 90% of all healthcare worldwide and comprise 80% of the global health workforce. In the Nakaseke district with a population approximately half the size of Northern Ireland there is on average seven doctors. Nurses are on the frontline every hour of every day with a wide spectrum of responsibilities and expertise. Healthcare in regions such as this are heavily reliant on their service.
As we celebrate International Nurses Day on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, it is nurses such as Ruth and her life work to save newborn lives that hold the profession in the highest standard. The profession of nursing is often referred to as both an art and a science. Florence Nightingale called it the ‘finest of arts’. The art of nursing is not merely a set of tasks but an intricate process that incorporates intellectual understanding, the sensitive spirit and the creative imagination.
I have had the great honour to work side by side with the amazing nursing team at Kiwoko Hospital and every day I carry with me the lessons and inspiration.
At The ISIS Foundation we celebrate all nurses worldwide!!