By: Eze Victor Obinna (BNSc., RN.,RPHN.)

Majority of Nursing Professionals offer  standard health care services to their clients, diligently fulfilling their social contract even to the detriment of their own well-being. But due to misconceptions that affect nursing practice in Africa, amidst quackery, negative representation by the media, lack of professional progression, leadership challenges, poor remuneration, improper placement of Nurses and many others, the public relevance of the profession remains increasingly threatened.

Through our various training institutions, we were able to acquire the theoretical and practical knowledge required for efficient clinical practice .However, these are just the basis, there are other things we must do before we can make ourselves professionally relevance in practice and socially relevance in the society.

Nurses by virtue of their professional expectations ought to be natural leaders. That has not been the case, consequently, we rarely participate in policy formulations neither do we have enough members of our professionals as front line leaders and policy makers in Africa.
Therefore, it is important for us to discuss ways for achieving and maintaining professional relevance and good social recognition.

1) Maintaining Solidarity Within the Profession

The single most important factor in influencing health sector policy is solidarity within the profession. The aim is to reach agreement on key issues. Strong, well-organized nursing associations are a powerful vehicle for influencing and achieving nursing goals. Unity within the profession is essential to ensure that the voice of nurses is loud enough to deliver nursing interest on key issues to the soul of every member of our society. It will be loud enough to receive proper attention, necessary actions and to deliver the expected result.

This will ensure that our collective actions are constantly assertive , purposeful and progressive  as oppose to our current aggressive disposition on important issue , an action that lacks purpose, usually retrogressive and self destructive. United we stand, divided we fall. Finally, we must begin to get individuals who are intellectually sound, visionary and with courageous character to head our professional associations.

2) Diverse exposure and public awareness through Volunteer Services

Modern health care system is a holistic concept. A profession must be well grounded in her core duty as well as political and social services to be relevant in modern world. Nurses have been playing skeletal role in public health intervention and crisis management. We must begin to volunteer in responding first in all public health emergencies and crisis management.

We should invest some of our time and energy to providing emergency relief and other interventions during disaster, electoral violence etc. We must go out of our way to touch our communities in special ways, thereby making ourselves indispensable.

3) Redesign Nursing Education

Nursing education in Africa must follow current global trend that is in conformity with 21st century philosophy of nursing practice. Nursing education must be holistic, solid and advanced enough to prepare nurses for professional, political and social roles in life. We must promote research oriented education, the kind that is only available in the university (good Universities), promote advanced practical skills acquisition, research skills and leadership development through postgraduate programs.

4) Strengthening Our Leadership Structure and Encouraging political interest

Our clinical leaders must lead by examples, they must demonstrate excellence in both theories and practice and be advanced in their learning to be able to observe, identify, modify and even invent new procedures and principles for effective nursing care. There leadership styles and agenda must reflect deep understanding of professionalism of nursing practice.
Nurses in Africa are very apolitical, this is a very troubling situation that requires urgent correction. Our leadership positions in the hospitals, state and federal government ministries have been more of a nomenclature with little or no influence. Most of our directors are errand men and women with no room to initiate and pursue their initiatives, mostly because they lacked political muscle and a professional leadership structure that can give them all the necessary protection. Nurses must become very political, we can form partisan structures to be attached to major political parties for the purpose of promoting nursing agenda. These men and women will be encouraged to work themselves to the highest level in the leadership chain of the political parties for effective professional representation.

Our leadership structure should form a strong network connecting our independent professional organizations to our leaders under the authority of the government establishment. Our independent professional organizations will be the one to mount pressures on the government so that an enabling environment can be giving to our directors and their deputies to function without outside interference or victimization. This way, they can be empowered to pursue better payment for nurses and improved financial contribution to nursing development by the government. Finally, we must promote leadership development among the younger professionals.

5) Dominate The Media
Nurses must start using the media, www.leadnurseafrica.com, which is the strongest and fastest voice that reaches billions in less than a second to show their relevance, contributions and put things right to the public.
It’s always rare to see an African nurse and nursing leaders on any of our local Tv channels anchoring a media talk show or interview related to health or nursing care, it’s rare to see Nigerian nurses on our local radio or Tv channel promoting any health related product or event.

Nurses who manage personal blogs and blogs to promote and share their sacrifice, impact and dedication in the health care sector are just few. We have only tapped an insignificant number of the opportunities offered by the media and world wide web which other health care professionals are strongly embracing to strengthen their relevance.

6) Learn Positive Communication Skills
Errors come from insufficient, improper communication and information deficit between most nurses and their clients. Nurses’ cognitive overload, stress and fatigue, as well as poor (nurse – patient) communication are factors that have threatened positive communication and relationship between nurses and patients.

Ability to recognize non-verbal communication and to understand the positive verbal communication strategies as well as identify the significance of the patient education development strategy is the part of the professionalism of future nurses. Communication skills – the ability to listen, to form open questions, to conduct a dialogue – often form one of the leading aspects in the patient care management and patient education.If nurses can master and manifest positive communication skills, the public perception that nurses are wicked will be reduced to a large extent, thereby ,projecting a re-branded positive image to the general public.

7) Get Involved In Ending Quackery and ending unprofessional public behavior
Nurses have continuously shown little or no concern in re-branding the public image of nursing in Africa. There are no strict policies regulating the training and activities of unprofessional practitioners or quacks trained in their thousands by doctors, aided by some nurses for personal gains in unaccredited private institutions, causing the educated and qualified professionals to either leave the profession or be subjects to public caricature and abuse.

Most nursing professionals seem less concerned about the activities of these “killers on white”. Nursing leaders ought to put in more effort to get African nurses the needed respect they deserve by strengthening various nursing institutions and seeing to the general welfare of their members.

Finally, nurses must stop unscientific and unprofessional behaviors like engaging clients and their relations in a quarrel, delivering nursing care with anger, abuse of clinical uniform (wearing it outside clinical area, spreading infection), habitual embarrassment of junior colleagues, lack of interest in further learning and intellectual exposure ( yes, it is unprofessional) etc.

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Lead Nurse Africa is a Pan-African nursing organization dedicated to public health promotion and professional development.

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