A SAD RECORD OF NIGERIAN NURSING HISTORY.
By: Adeleke Segun (LeadNurse Editor, USA)
Mind you, I went through basic nursing school in Nigeria before my degree some years later.
The BNSC graduates who did not go through basic nursing school were not the founders of department of nursing sciences in Nigeria Universities. These departments were founded by nurses whom after their basic schools of nursing Program (initially the only program available for nurses) thought it wise to lead the nation in following the progressive trend when nursing education started moving into the Universities across the globe. These pioneers had great vision for the profession, starting from those who opened the first department of nursing in 1965 at the University of Ibadan and those that pioneered direct university nursing program in Obafemi owolowo universities Ife in early 70’s. However, oppositions to those dreams emerged out of ignorant, jealousy and laziness from their colleagues who are also registered practicing nurses. Those oppositions came from set of nurses who perceived the rigorous university education as an undue punishment for nurses and found it unnecessary. They are also the nurses who swore that these pioneers must come down to their level of mediocrity or the entire profession burns in hell. They frustrated majority of the early graduates out of the country, others got tired of their rebellion and moved to other fields for their masters. That was how nursing profession missed great opportunities till date.
Therefore, a disharmony that appears today as a war between university products and that of basic and post basic nursing schools is not the correct picture. It was and still is a fight between progressive, visionary and hardworking nurses who wants the profession to grow, against nurses who are selfish, retrogressive and backward, whose dream is for the profession to stagnate since they lack the capacity or intention to pursue further development. Sadly, these backward nurses had been and are still in the overwhelming majority. They are drunk with negative sentiments and anti progressive agenda.
“Since 1980’s, we have wrestled university graduate nurses to the ground and we shall make sure they remain there”…
The above statement was credited to a nurse practicing at a notable hospital in Nigeria at an event I attended before I traveled. He is not alone among nurses who believed that the university program must be dead and buried so that their ego, mediocrity and misguided professional seniority can be sustained.
The Nursing community in Nigeria seems to have embraced self destructive disposition passionately. This is because there is no successful profession in the world without the rigorous process of university education. There is no other means to become masters of subjects, doctors of subjects etc. We are not talking about acquisition of certificates, the emphases here is on fertilization of knowledge, breeding of sophisticated/resourceful leaders and creation of a circle of men/women where intelligent debates are accommodated and where innovation and advancement of knowledge are traditionally promoted.
One can boldly state that United State of America is the greatest country in the world because her universities are the best in the world. Nursing practice is greatest in America, followed by Canada, Australia and United Kingdom. These countries have professors and doctors of nursing sciences making decision on behalf of their colleagues. The directors of nursing in these countries are lettered men/women who are resourceful and brave. All the administrative decisions and interventions as professional leaders in these climes are thoroughly debated, well shaped to mold positive consensus and are guided with facts established through research, as against sentiments. Their short and long term goals are well defined and diligently pursued.
‘The worst thing that can happen to any group of people is to have leaders whose actions can only be located in the spectrum of baseless sentiments and “stomach driven ambition. This is exactly the case for nursing leadership in Nigeria’.
In 2009, a practicing female nurse at male medical ward in a Nigerian teaching hospital blasted university student on clinical posting, claiming that the university program will ‘kill nursing’. When student demanded reason for her position, she boldly stated that nurses are meant to be humble and submissive to authorities, these values, according to her, will be destroyed by degree nursing program. There is nothing wrong with humility and submissiveness to higher authority. The problem with her position was that, she was ignorantly describing laziness and lack of ambition as humility, while labeling self abnegation as submissiveness, as evidenced by the example she later gave to back her point. Some also knowingly or unknowingly promotes poverty as a virtue that nurses must embrace.
Another chief nursing officer (CNO) in southwest Nigeria stated angrily, that the only reason nurses want to go to the university is because they want to rub shoulder with doctors. According to her, the basic and post basic training have giving nurses all the training they required. We later learn that she is married to a medical doctor. Hers’ , obviously, is the classical case of a nurse, who married a doctor to elevate herself among her professional colleagues through marriage, and anything that promises to brings nurses to the status of her husband will be automatically perceived as a threat to her ‘marital legacy’. Therefore, she will do anything to ensure that her legacy remains intact. How else could we explain her myopic and parochial argument?
To another group of nurses aggrieved by the modern university based program, it is an injustice for them to toil for many years in practice with nothing to show for their sweat, only for this ‘little children’ who studied nursing in the university to come and start earning salary in their first year at work ,at a level they were only able to attain after 10 years of service’. Incredible as it may sound, this opinion is very popular. For these nurses, everybody must suffer as they had suffered or there will be no peace. The degree program , therefore, have become a threat to their sense of professional justice, even when they have failed to read a single book since they finished their basic nursing training for more than 20 years.
When Mrs. Kujore returned to her motherland, after practicing in Canada and having completed her degree in nursing at McGill University. She had a burning passion to transform nursing in ile ife in those days. The doctors … YES … The doctors were willing to assist her in setting up a sound professional program for nurses which included internship for graduate nurses and consultancy program for nurses among other ideas. What happened then? Majority of nurses with no university degree (99.9 percent of nurses as at then) mobilized and attacked her vision and that of her co believers. They attacked so diligently until they murdered and buried the vision. Those vision which is essential for intellectual and economic advancement for Nigerian nurses are yet to resurrect since 40 years and still counting. She labored, fought and pleaded with the then nurses to abandon their sentiments and look at the future. But they shouted her down, mocking her to come and carry bedpan with her “White-man degree”. They won, but it was not mama Kujore that they defeated, it was instead their own profession that they sentimentally brought to her knees, condemning themselves and future professionals to mediocrity, poor leadership, poor recognition and intellectual backwardness.
The story is endless, every decade has its own version. It is a clear indication that Nigerian nursing leaders have become so psychologically imprisoned with sentiments that good reasoning have departed from them. Consequently, the profession lost her grace and is currently sitting shamefully at the bottom of the food chain in the health sector in Nigeria.
THE WAY FORWARD
” It is a show of shame for registered nurses to dedicate energy towards the destruction of any program that encourages radical transformation, academic advancement and competitiveness”.
Nurses must sort themselves out and end their internal crises before they can enjoy their bright prospects. To start with, progressive ideas that promote growth and harmony within the profession must be adopted. It should be the desire of every nurse to support any programs that brings us at par with others in the health sector, even when the nurse is not a beneficiary to such program.
The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) must mold consensus towards professional advancement through recognized graduate and post graduate education, as opposed to their current posture towards basic and post basic education. The former is the future, the later is the past. More so, Nurses must understand that the fact that you are lazy or were not fortunate to further your studies, does not Make University belongs to a particular group of people. It is unnecessary to express once frustration from inability to be admitted into the university by fighting the progress of colleagues who were fortunate to do so. Thankfully, more and more universities are opening up department of nursing sciences and we can all go and develop ourselves better and work together to secure and enjoy the benefits therein.
The university program has come to stay. Whatever obstacle that currently holds the full expression of its benefit will disappear with time. Let us join hands together in bringing our noble profession into a reputable position in a society that needed her modern skills the most in tackling her huge burden of health and environmental challenges.