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Plight Of Unemployed Nurses In Ghana

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COMMENTARY ON “THE YEAR OF THE NURSE AND MIDWIFE”; EXPERIENCES OF THE UNEMPLOYED NURSE.

The globally acclaimed organization, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”, in honour of the 200-birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale born on the 12th of May 1820. This among other things is to showcase how nurses are central to addressing a wide range of health challenges and focusing on the true value of nurses to the world. Traditionally each year, the International Council of Nurses leads the celebrations on International Nurses Day on 12th May, as a memorial of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year is unique because the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as: “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. However, to the 2017 graduates of Public Trained Nurses and Midwives, “The year of the nurse and midwife” is a cliché. Over 40 thousand graduate nurses and midwives are home, unemployed two years after their national service. To them “the year of the nurse and midwife” is dystopia. Florence Nightingale’s thought and form of nursing is one composed of art, science and philosophy. She pivoted empathy as the cardinal sign of a nurse and midwife. Thus, nursing is a profession which deals with human lives, not machines or plastics. An error in discharging of duties can take away a precious life. Hence, the need to keep abreast with empirical knowledge and skills acquired through education, research, practice, and experience. Nightingale is accorded the founder of modern nursing because there was no gap between her learning and practice.

Public Trained Nurses and Midwives who graduated in January 2017 are still at home unemployed. The nurses and midwives who should have been at post to discharge their acquired knowledge and skills to care for people and help reduce maternal mortality, have to do series of picketing and demonstrations before being cleared financially. Such Nurses or Midwives are already frustrated and suffer from knowledge decay. This decay of knowledge has its unintended consequences as such, nurses may not be able to administer drugs accurately, give injection professionally or monitor vital signs impeccably. However, the societal and professional expectations of the nurse or midwife is to practice with apt and skill that match the professional standards globally. Logically, it is going to be difficult for a graduate with rusted knowledge and skills to begin work with apt. Factors such as this unemployment may undermine the frantic efforts by all stakeholders to achieve the universal health coverage of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A rusted nurse or midwife’s knowledge is as dangerous as no knowledge. In recent years, there have been reports of nursing negligence and malpractice in some hospitals according to media reports. The veracity of these allegations remain unresolved. Most of these complaints if not all, were reported at the time when the immediate employment of nurses and midwives was stopped. Now, the hypothesis relative to the unemployed nurses and midwives is that the country should embrace itself for more cases of medical negligence, malpractice and an increase in morbidity and mortality in the near future because of decay of knowledge of those the state will be employing later. Sadly, aside the unemployment burdens the Ghanaian nurse or midwife has to endure, there is an ending financial tumor imposed on them through the yearly renewal of Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). For the 2017 batch of nurses and midwives, after paying to register, they have not been able to use their PINs even for once, yet, these PINs are expected to expire in three months and by law, these nurses and midwives are expected to renew them at a cost. What is even worrying to some of these nurses and midwives and their parents is that they paid their fees through borrowing with the intention of paying back after employment. Unfortunately, two years after graduation, they see their hopes being dashed.

“The year of the nurse and midwife” remains a rhetoric rather than a reality. In Ghana, the nurse to patient ratio is 1:18, meaning at any point in time, one nurse is attending to18 patients. Can such a nurse perform up to standard? Absolutely not. According to the World Health Organization, a nurse to patient ratio must be 1:5 in order to perform satisfactorily and meet the universal health coverage. Ghana’s case is more than thrice the standard and this must be a concern to all Ghanaians. To help reduce this yawning gap of nurse to patient ratio, the government should consider employing qualified graduate nurses and midwives that are sitting home rusting. It is hoped that clearance will be given immediately for unemployed nurses to be absolved to meet international standards.

BY: GBANDE SULLEH, ASSISTANT LECTURER DEPARTMENT OF NURSING AND MIDWIFERY UNIVERSITY OF HEALTH AND ALLIED SCIENCS, HO.

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