Professional attainment is the major aim of every professional group in every field. This attainment mean practicing based on the international standard, enjoyment of public trust and respect, government support in terms of fulfillment of labour ties and having a functional healthcare system. Frankly speaking it can be established that the medical profession in Nigeria with regards to all other professions in the health industry has relatively attained this feat. For this feat, they gained the public trust, fulfilled labour ties and outstanding educational system.
If nurses intend to reach such feat they need to learn from these doctors. This does not mean that the doctors have nothing to learn from nurses. No, no. There are a lot of things that the doctors can as well learn from Nigerian nurses. For us to reach our goal we need to know and Master our strengths and weaknesses. Take necessary steps to remedy the weaknesses.
Below are some of things I think nurses can learn from doctors to attain our desired professional status.
Respect is very inherent and common among doctors. A junior one must respect his senior. I observed this: A 600level student respects a house officer and holds him with esteem. Same also for the officer to his senior professional colleagues such as senior registrars, consultants and professors. A junior one dares not interrupt his senior. Infact, the manner in which a junior corrects a senior one when he made mistake is unique and respectful. If doctors can arrange themselves and walk on a queue it would make you glad. This is because they will arrange themselves according to their seniority. The most senior will be in the front and then followed by the one lower in rank to him. This is the first thing that nurses need to copy and learn from doctors. Nowadays it seems respect is very minimal among nurses. This is brought about by the divisions and dichotomies we have in the profession. Nurses with Bnsc degrees downgrade those with diploma certificates. The nurses with the diploma certificates accuses degrees nurses of being half-baked in practicals. When two nurses meet the first question that will come is are you a bsnc or not. This has created a lack of respect among nurses. This unfortunate act has spread to our schools and departments. At this juncture, I want to call the attention of both GNAN/UGONSA and NANNM to come to negotiating table to understand and work out their differences. It is high time we stop washing our linens in public. GNAN needs to respect NANNM as the mother association of Nigerian nurses and it executives are our mothers and fathers who have worked tirelessly to propel nursing profession to the present State. NANNM need to also give official recognition to GNAN as a conglomeration of younger ones who need the wisdom, support and advise. The two associations need to be partners in progress not otherwise. Nigerian doctors have both Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). They both fight for a common course and respect each other mutually. According to some reports and speculations NARD take directives and instructions from NMA. Nigerian nurses need to emulate. Nursing is a profession of respect to fellow colleagues, other health workers and patients.
2. Genuine Spirit of Oneness:
Professionals love and support each other. Doctors have this feature. It is this feature that always lead them to cover for one another. You hardly find doctors engaging in gossips and backbiting of one another. When one is promoted others feel as if they are the ones. They celebrate their colleagues success. Another reason to support this is when one of them is appointed he works for his profession and colleagues. He depends his colleagues interest and always make it a priority. We are all witness to this. Nurses need to learn and imbibe this culture. We should not only verbalize it but put it into practice. We need to do away with the culture of one another's gossips, celebrate each others success and always have the profession at heart. I can remember vividly when one of our nurses was appointed deputy permanent secretary. We approached him for support towards lobbying the commissioner of health for our inclusion into state government bonding program for medical students. This nurse outrightly told us that he is working for the state government not for nurses therefore we know what to do. For more than six years now the program is still not yet actualized. So as professionals we need to support each others progress and success. Celebrate the promotion of our colleagues. Provide every necessary support to students whenever they demand. Cover up for our colleagues when need be. If the profession or one of us is humiliated we should feel as if we are the one and act to depend. How many superiors denied their junior ones opportunity to further their education? How many matrons implicated their staff to be sacked? I believe the answers to these questions will be uncountable times. For us to advance we must imbibe and practilize a true Spirit of oneness just as doctors are doing it.
3. Public Awareness:
Nigerian nurses constitute the greater workforce of the health industry. They carry out the bulk of the work in the hospitals. This is one of the reason why they are the most blamed health workers. Nurses are the first category of health workers that patients come in contact with and the last to see before leaving. We need to get the public aware of our roles and responsibilities. Nigerian doctors use every opportunity they have to enlighten the populace about them and their works. They reach media houses to collaborate and execute this awareness. They serve as resource persons, anchors, facilitators to radio and TV shows. This helps to bring them to public limelight. In addition, during occasions of celebrating health events such as diabetes day, mental health day, heart day, cancer day etc their association particularly NMA releases publications to enlighten the public on the maintenance and promotion of their health. All these activities gain them public respect and recognition. If we are to advance professionally we must we must the embrace and use the social media wisely, technically and effectively. In must also reach out film making industries and newspapers companies. They contributed alots towards downgrading the image of Nurses in Nigeria. They always feature nurses as inferior health workers. They regards everyone wearing white in the hospital as a Nurse. We need to sensitive them on the roles and responsibilities of nurses, who Nurses are and the rigorous training they undergo to obtain license. If journalists and film industries are well inform they will as well educate and orient the public better on the unique roles and responsibilities of nurses. This can gain us public respect.
Someone may ask are Nurses not confident? Yes I can answer this question affirmatively that nurses are not confident in relations to medical doctors. How many nurses engage or join doctors in professional discussion in our hospitals, how many nurses question doctor's inaccurate orders, how many nurses can stand before doctors and depend a case or problem? Even if there is the proportion will be very insignificant. I don't know why one who is well trained and a professional can not be confident. Knowledge gives one confident. A professional and confident Nurse can before anybody not only doctors to depend a case or problem. Doctors are full of confidence. It is their overconfidence that is giving them arrogancy, ego and superiority complex. When you agree one is better than you he will forever be ahead of you. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. This lack of confidence is very common among student nurses. They always feel that medical students are better than them. Both Nursing and medical students enter University with the same requirements of 5 credits and a jamb score of above 200. And they virtually receive the same and study similar courses. So why will you feel he/she is better. So don't feel intimidated. For rapid professional advancement nurses must always feel confident.
5. Unclassified Degrees:
MBBS and B. Pharm are unclassified degree programs. A true professional course of study must be an unclassified degree program. An unclassified degree is a program of study in which the trainees graduate with a pass Mark. Under unclassified degree there is no category of first class, second class or third class. Everyone who perform up to the bench mark has a pass. This issue of unclassified degree as little as it is is of importance. It helps professionals to feel Sense of oneness and repose public respect and confidence in them. The reason being is that whoever pass is considered qualified and everyone respect him/her. The Nursing degree is a classified one. This mean we can have a third class in Nursing. When a Nurse is known to graduate with a third class he won't be respected by his patients even if he has the skills. This is because in Nigeria today much emphasis is make more on paper than skills. I heard a professor in one of the Nigerian universities saying that provided he know a Nurse is a third class Nurse he won't allow him/her to touch his body if he is ill. This is another issue that made Nigerian medical doctors felt more superior and important than nurses. They say Nurses degree is the same as any other discipline degree. They say Nursing is the same with chemistry. Our training institutions particularly departments of nursing should try and do necessary to convert Nursing into an unclassified degree in the interest of the progress and advancement of the profession. Unclassified degree program is usually easier to both the students and the educators. It provides enough and specific time for vacation, clinical experience sessions, Nursing Council exams and lectures unlike the present system of the program which is very complicated.
It's my candid and optimism that all nurses both practicing and students will carefully study these points and do the necessary and needful for our profession to advance professionally. We have all the potentials to be the best professional health workers group in Nigeria. Doctors are perceived to be Nurses' rival. In the real sense They are not Nurses' rival but partners in progress towards bettering the lives of patients. But competition's is always good. It makes one adjust and correct his weaknesses and strengthen his strengths.
Written by Bilyaminu Bala Yahya
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Department of Nursing Sciences.
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