By Adebayor Toyin (BSN, MSN)
It was an early morning lecture in nursing department at the university. This was far back in 2006 in Nigeria. The lecturer was one of those strict and unfriendly folks you dare not miss their lecture without a strong reason. Her attendant register was almost the book of life. After one hour thirty minute of relentless note taking and discussion of nursing management of a patient with diabetes mellitus among other topics for the day, she decided to digress a little. Firstly, she emphasized we all pay attention for what she is about to say is a value we must inculcate before we are licensed as nurses. Our curiosity rose, notebooks were closed and even some class members who were partially dosing off earlier came alive.
GOOD POOR NURSE ADVICE
She told us that being a nurse was the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to her. That confession was welcomed with a resounding round of applause. Then she continued. My children, when you become a nurse, pay no attention to “MONEY”. It does not matter if you are poor, underpaid or owed for several months, as long as you have the opportunity to care for your patient, GOD WILL REWARD YOU. At this point, EYES HAVE STARTED ROLLING, but she has not even started. Her second missile came; it breaks her heart to see nurses always making noise about SALARY INCREASE and even embarking on industrial action to push for MATERIAL DEMANDS, FORGETTING THEIR PRIORITY WHICH IS TO CARE. At the end of her unfortunate long epistle that lasted for about 20 precious minute, she finished with an epic conclusion. In conclusion, she told us that nursing is about caring ( of course we know), anybody that is not interested in caring should leave nursing ( that is right), therefore, IF YOU HAVE ANY INTENTION TO BE RICH AS A NURSE, YOU ARE IN A WRONG PLACE, BECAUSE NURSES REWARD ARE IN HEAVEN (GOD FORBID, SHE IS WRONG).
AN EPIC CONCLUSION MET AN EPIC REACTION.
At this point, we had forgotten everything we learned that morning , she did a very terrible job if her intention was to motivate us towards effective and dedicated nursing practice. She only succeeded in demoralizing us and almost quenched our flames of hope. My classmates called Peter Okoro (One of the few guys in an overwhelmingly female dominated class of course) rose to the occasion and put some questions across to her. Had it not been a university setting, his polite attack would have sent him out of hospital based nursing training in Africa.
Peter said, excuse me ma!! Did it occur to you that the ethics of international council of nursing stated boldly, THAT NURSES SHOULD DEMAND FOR REWARD THAT IS DUE TO THEM FOR THEIR SERVICES?
Ma, you told us last year how your attempt to travel to America to practice nursing failed because your husband did not allow you to travel, where you going to America to pursue poverty?
Ma, One of your sons is in an expensive private university; you once complained bitterly in one of your lectures in this class (probably to impress us) about how much you are paying for his education, are you making all that investment so that he will be rewarded in heaven? Or is it our parents alone that deserve their own sons and daughters to be rewarded in heaven after their investments in us?
Ma, how can we afford to pursue our further studies upon graduation, take care of our families and relatives if we resign to poor payment?
Ma, can you tell us how the services of pharmacist, Military men, Doctors, Air force etc are less humanitarian to that of nurses?
Ma, how could you in good conscience indirectly encourage university student to be so stupid and unprofessional upon graduation. Or did you not know that compliance to your advice is tantamount to professional meltdown and economic suicide?
Ma, in bible, when Christ thought the apostle how to pray, a very important part of that prayer is “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Does that not mean that God himself expect us to begin to experience his kingdom here on earth even before we die?
How can a 21st century teacher, suggest that a new generation should accept a situation that does not provide a decent life for him/her family and a career that cannot enable him /her to develop further ?
NO MA! WE WILL CARE FOR OUR PATIENT ON EARTH AND BE REWARDED HERE ON EARTH. HEAVENLY REWARD IS A PERSONAL CASE BETWEEN US AND GOD. WE HAVE TO MAKE HEAVEN FIRST BEFORE WE CAN ENJOY SUCH REWARD. HOWEVER, YOUR SUGGESTION CAN ONLY RESULT TO FRUSTRATION WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD TO MALPRACTICES AND NEGLIGENT AND THAT IS A STRAIGHT TICKET TO HELL MA!! …
…And that was the reaction that made Peter my good friend a legend in nursing department. He received a thunderous applause from the students’. Our dear lecturer picked her materials in anger and stormed out of the class. She attempted to make a case with us at the department but she was quickly reminded that she is in the university and the students have right for self expression and even right to protest against any ideology that is against the overall vision of their institution. But as a matter of fact, the HOD could not pinpoint any reason to punish Peter in line with the university guideline and any attempt to report the case to any authority outside nursing department can only bring more embarrassment to the lecturer and the department and more heroic commendation to Peter.
From then henceforth, she was converted into the reality of modern image of what nursing has become. A profession whose humanitarian service is not for free. A profession whose members must earn enough money to pay their bills and take good care of their family so they can be in good psychological state to offer a quality evidence based care. A profession that requires her members to earn a good living to be able to pursue advanced learning, political leadership and even sponsor humanitarian service. A profession that expects her members to live well, to enjoy a good holiday, send their kids to good schools and be a respected member of the society. The only thing that is against the ethics of nursing is GREED. That greed can be defined as illegal financial exploitation of clients. But as long as our financial expectation from our employment institution is concern, no amount can be too much for nursing service.
This is just a typical example of poor mentality that our teachers in Africa have invested in most nurses. Nurses settled for anything in the name salary. A friend of mine was once at the verge of concluding an agreement with a private hospital, only for another nurse to walk in and agreed to accept less than half the amount that the management has already agreed to pay my friend and that was the end of the job. License nurses in Africa are very cheap. Most African countries underpay their nurses except South Africa and maybe Egypt . Nigeria and most countries in Africa are a disgrace to what career in nursing should be in the 21st century. Many nurses earns in a month, less than what we earn in a day in the United States. The gap is simply ridiculous and amount to slave labor.
We must organize the structure of our workforce in Africa, increase the quality of our services and INSIST TO BE SUFFICIENTLY REWARDED HERE ON EARTH JUST LIKE OUR COLLEAGUES IN THE DEVELOPED COUNTRIES!!
Poverty is not a virtue that enhances nursing skills. A rich or at least a comfortable nurse will definitely be more resourceful, cheerful and mentally balanced in delivering an efficient evidenced based nursing care than a poor and frustrated nurse. Let us make nursing great in Africa.
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Editors Note : Adebayor Toyin is a Lead Nurse Africa (LNA) Editor based in California, United States of America.
Comment and share your thought about nursing salary in your country (both public and private institutions) and what you think should be done to improve our reward on earth.