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Ikogho Edesiri didn’t choose nursing. It chose her

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I always wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “But when I applied to my school they had submitted their quota and I settled for nursing. I honestly hated it for the first semester, but fell in complete love with it after our first clinical practice during the second semester. There’s just something that’s hard for me to put into words… the unique interaction between patients, their families and nurses. If I could afford to, I’d nurse for free for the rest of my life.”

Today, Edesiri will join millions of nurses across the globe to celebrate that special relationship and the enormous contribution nurses make to society as part of International Nurses Day (IND). IND, a yearly celebration that started in 1974, is held on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who is widely acknowledged as the founder of modern nursing.

Each year the International Council of Nurses (ICN) picks a theme to mark each year, in 2016 it’s Nurses: A Force for Change: Improving health systems resilience, the ICN commemorates the day by producing an IND kit for nurses worldwide with educational materials based on the theme.

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (MCN), professional nursing in Nigeria is a product of the early missionaries, who combined their work with the provision of medical and nursing care.  As Nigeria developed so did the field of nursing, but like the country there are still a number of challenges.

Edesiri, 29, who has been a registered nurse for 7 years left her job as a general nurse at a private hospital in Lagos last year to focus on nurse leadership and training, something she believes in key in the development of the nursing field in Nigeria.

“Being overworked and underpaid always tops the list [of challenges] and the lack of supplies,” she continued. “Continuous training would be great, but that’s as each hospital wishes. A lot of establishments refuse change, they [think]’this is how we’ve always done it, don’t change things. Some private institutions have more auxiliary nurses who have no formal training. They’ve been doing the job doe years so they are adamant their experiences makes up for a lack of proper training.  Some are open to learning but others find it insulting that one would dare teach them what they’ve done for years.”

Coupled with these issues is another major challenge patient awareness: “The average Nigerian would be more willing to try agbo before Augmentin,” she said. “Some patients sneak in concoctions to take alongside prescribed medication, making themselves worse. There isn’t enough community outreach or awareness.”

For Ijeoma Ohia, 29, nursing was an easy choice after growing up in a family of health practitioners she was drawn to the profession, but like Edesiri she acknowledges the a number of things holding the profession back.

“The working environment and the lack of infrastructure ‘[are major challenges], but the number one is structure [of the system] is terrible,” said Ohia who works with United Healthcare International, a Health Maintenance Organization based in Abuja. “It is one of the biggest challenges we face. There is yet to be an acknowledgement of disparity in nursing regarding the BSN nurses {BSc in Nursing}, diploma nurses and auxiliary nurses. This structure calls for lack of respect from colleagues of other disciplines and also brings about a lack of growth in nursing. If the present system is failing I believe the right thing to do is restructure.”

Despite these challenges both Ohia and Edesiri are optimistic about two things, their love of the profession and the future of Nigeria nursing: “We are a hopeful country,”said Ohia. “So I’ll say yes [the future of nursing is bright.”

“I do see things improving,” agreed Edesiri. “Starting from the established nurses and spreading to the nursing schools. If nurses are open to change and learn brand new systems I do see things improving.”

 



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