Nurses—Making a Difference in Global Health

Nurse Story:  Combat HIV, AIDS, malaria and all communicable and non-communicable diseases

Caring for the Carers to Care

SANNAM - the Southern African Network of Nurses and Midwives - is the platform where nurses of the region meet to look with a common interest on the issues of health, nursing, social welfare of nurses and the general populations in the region, and to address challenges caused by the impact of HIV/AIDS on the profession.

CARING FOR THE CARERS TO CARE is our model. This means our commitment is to make sure; those who take care of the people are also taken care of. That is why, our members are National Nursing Organizations (NNOs) of all 15 countries of the SADC region. They have the mandate where the concept of “WELLNESS CENTERS FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS (HCW) originated. We believe that Nurses and Midwives who are affected or infected by HIV/AIDS should not ‘stand in the same queue’ as their clients, undermining the relationship of trust and authority which is fundamental to their effectiveness. Therefore, a separate service for them and their families to access the relevant care is required. In some countries governments are providing special services and “occupational health clinics”, but in many others this is non-existent.

The manual on “STIGMA TRAINING FOR NURSES” was developed to ensure that, when nurses and other HCWs are infected or affected by the HIV/AIDS they may be more stigmatized because of the high expectations of the perpetrators of stigma on the level of knowledge of the HCW’s on HIV prevention. This module prepares us as Nurses to deal with such situations. And 2010 being the year of Nurses, we want to see support from our people, understanding that we are carers but also, ordinary people who need support from our communities, our patients and more importantly our politicians. They need to understand that our profession has evolved and we are trained up to the levels to fill positions of: high ranked managers, politicians, scientists, technologists, leaders, top academics… There is no position a trained nurse cannot fill today. Our specialties must be acknowledged and remunerated accordingly. But also, nursing remains an Art, the Art of caring; and requests a sense of calling. So to say, money is not the only motivation in the practice of the noble profession.

Nurses in the Southern African region are working in very poor socio-economic conditions, working conditions are disastrous, and there is a critical lack of protection materials. Though having less than 2% of global health work force, we are still dealing with above 25% of Global Diseases. We need to see this situation improving during 2010. And for Health Equity, we urge WHO, Global Fund, and others organisations working on International Health Partnership to focus on the development of Nursing and nurses in the third world. We are the backboard of health systems and any efforts to Strengthening health Systems should give particular attention to us.

In our region, we are urging for an increase of Nurses’ representation at the leadership of governments structures, policy and decision making boards; and to the SADC secretariat a ‘NURSING DESK” within the Health Sector and HIV/AIDS Unit. Despite the poor socio-economic and working conditions in some of our countries, as Nurses in the region we are still committed to our profession. Many are leaving to practice in America, Europe and Middle East. But, those who are remaining are still caring though the work load may be as higher as 600% in countries such as MALAWI where shortage is very critical.

Our nursing training institutions are producing enough nurses and midwives, but our governments are failing to employ them or adequately pay them to retain them in the profession. In our SANNAM forums, we discuss strategies to enhance recruitment, training and retention. We need to multiply our activities to build the capacities for nurses as main providers of health care services to take care of themselves. That is why our International partnership is so essential.

Workplace violence is still predominant and nurses are victims of various forms of abuse: verbal, physical, emotional, and even at some serious extent sexual abuse. A lot still need to be done to reduce the level of workplace violence in the health sector in our region.

In SANNAM Network, gathering regional nursing leadership, we are in the forefront of these initiatives when lobbying our governments, politicians, policy makers and other nurse leaders at country level to support our valued endeavors.

Author information:

Nyangi "Philemon" Ngomu
Executive Director
Southern African Network of Nurses and Midwives
605 Church Street
Pretoria 0001, South Africa