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Nurturing Our Nurses for Healthcare Par Excellence

'Nurses - one of the few blessings of being ill' - Sara Moss-Wolfe

Nobility, thy name is Nursing Care, comfort, and compassion are traits sacrosanct to the nursing profession , just as dedication and patience are its greatest virtues. It might seem implausible to visualize these attributes in ordinary mortals, yet there are millions with a willing heart. A lady who has left her foot prints on the sands of time, and needs no introduction - Florence Nightingale, known as the 'Lady with the Lamp', is a beacon to the nursing clan. She is known for her exemplary service during the Crimean war, which won her a place of pride in the annals of nursing history.

One cannot be in this profession for a lark. In the absence of the drive to serve society, nurses cannot fulfill their obligations to the best of their abilities. It is perhaps for this reason that right attitude and disposition are overriding qualities sought in aspirants. What is needed is not super human traits but the ability to be superbly humane, and touch a chord in patients' lives.

Each year, the 12 th of May is celebrated as International Nurses Day. This day is also the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, and is a glowing tribute to her valuable contributions to healthcare. To commemorate the day, The International Council of Nurses has released a complete kit that serves as a ready reckoner with educative and public information materials. Most importantly the kit underlines the significant contribution made by nurses to society, while giving us a platform to address challenged areas.

Nearly 80% of the healthcare services are provided by these neatly uniformed professionals. They form the core of healthcare services and are the channel of communication between the hospital, doctors and patients. They ensure the physicians' directives are followed without dilution or alteration, so that patient outcomes move in the p ositive direction. Their contribution is crucial and can make all the difference between life and death. Here, there is no margin for errors. In such a charged atmosphere, nurses are required to measure up to the expectations of the patients, doctors and the hospital management with equanimity.

The abiding sentiment of this International Nurses day is the importance of positive work ethos where quality workplaces translate into quality patient care.

Nursing The Scenario Worldwide

The nursing workforce is in a deep crisis. There is a huge demand for quality nursing professionals. In the developing countries the scene is worse, as many leave for foreign lands in search of greener pastures. This trend led the WHO to recognize the shortage of nurses as one of the key impediments to achieving healthcare milestones.

A study carried out in United States, Germany, Canada, England and Scotland showed that almost 41% of the nurses were dissatisfied with their working environments and 21% had decided to give-up on the profession. Often, the result of such negative work environments is many physical and psychological problems. These problems add to work place stress, conflicts and eventually trigger a burn out. Unresolved issues lead to absenteeism and low productivity, which negatively impacts the healthcare industry.

On the other hand, positive work environments have been known to motivate and foster excellence in healthcare. When the morale is high, it directly improves patient outcomes.

Caring for our Nurses Plan of Action

It is imperative to strike a balance between demand and resources. Excessive workload on the nursing staff is a huge compromise on patient care. Hospital managements need to address this issue by allocating duties according to the resources available. Understaffed nursing units need to be spruced up with fresh staff, instead of overloading existing staff.

The importance of rewards, recognition and compensation cannot be over emphasized. Alongside, inculcating attributes of ownership and leadership is a sure shot way to boost morale. Poor equipments and deficiencies in the working environment should be addressed as this is a deterrent to effective functioning of the nursing section.

A safe workplace is an absolute requirement. Many hospitals have employed strategies to reduce work loads with a view to reducing rate of injuries. It is crucial to have the right balance between workload and resource allocation, as anything in excess will put a strain on the nurses' health, exposing them to injuries.

Violence in the workplace is another worrying area, where nurses are at the receiving end of antagonism from patients or their families. Nurses need to feel safe and secure to operate in their environment, and healthcare policies must cater to this need.

Success Stories

Many countries have bucked the trend by reworking their health policies. For instance, United Kingdom, Canada, Thailand and Uganda have implemented a sea change in their recruitment policies. The new policies have augmented responsibilities for nursing aides. Fresh nursing staffs have been recruited to fill the vacancies. The policy also encourages nurses to continue their education.

In Uganda and Thailand, remuneration for nurses received a shot in the arm, with recognition being given for location of work. Healthy workplace initiatives became the norm in Canada and the UK, where nurses receive assistance in the form of housing loans, childcare assistance, flexible working hours and provision to continue education.

The bottom line clearly revolves around management of a good resource and the lifeline of healthcare. We need to emulate worldwide best practices and spread this information so that others can follow. Sharon Hudacek, in 'A Daybook for Nurses' has summed up the life of a nurse wonderfully, 'Bound by paperwork, short on hands, sleep, and energy... nurses are rarely short on caring'. All we need to do is nurture this trait and allow it to blossom in all the Florence Nightingales' of the world.


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