Mrs Olatunde Olushola is the chairman, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos State branch. In this exclusive chat with Temitope Obayendo, the versatile and dedicated chief nursing officer offers deep insights into the various issues surrounding nursing practice in the country. She also stresses the need for private hospital managements to employ professional nurses, in order to give qualitative care to patients. Excerpts:
What informed your choice of nursing as a profession?
I was motivated to choose nursing as a career, after the visit of the mother of one of my classmates in secondary school to her daughter during school hours. Her uniform, carriage, comportment and everything about her motivated me so much that I enquired about her and discovered she was a nurse; so I chose my science subjects.
My passion for nursing increased when I realised how much influence I could make in restoring wellness to people who are sick and make them smile again. I feel fulfilled after every thought of a sick patient regaining their health.
Also, as a holder of Bachelor of Nursing Science (BNSc) degree, I rose to the rank of a chief nursing officer and head nurse of Isolo LCDA. I served as a two-term chairman of NANNM, Agege Local Government Unit, before assuming the post of chairman, Forum for Local Government Nurses and Midwives (FOLGONM), from August 2008 to October 2011, when I assumed the position of NANNM chairman, Lagos State Council.
Are there some new skills developed for nurses to reduce infants’ morbidity and maternal mortality?
Yes, there are new skills. The advent of anti-shock garment, use of misoprostol for the control of Post-Partum Haemorrhage (PPH), training and retraining of nurses in life saving skills, obstetric care, handling of emergency cases, prompt referral of cases from primary to secondary level and two-way referral system, provision of well-equipped ambulances, etc. cannot be over-emphasised.
Also, the newly approved law of six months maternity leave for women and two weeks for men [in Lagos State] will definitely have a positive effect on maternal morbidity and mortality rate.
Is there any relationship between midwives and traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and where are they missing it?
There is a relationship between them because the duo are involved in taking deliveries; but the type and level of training, as well as method of practice, speak a lot of difference.
While the government is trying hard to modify and regulate the practice of the TBAs, trained and experienced midwives should be in charge of their activities and control their services. Midwifery is a delicate service that only a registered midwife is allowed to perform and it should be accorded that great respect. Many lives are lost every day, unknown to the government because of inadequate data, zero reporting and under-reporting of cases.
The TBAs are missing it in the area of non-regulation of their practices and inadequate reporting of maternal death.
Now that there are calls for orthodox practice to accommodate herbal medicines, is it possible for midwives to train traditional birth attendants?
No. Training of midwives can only be received in a registered school of midwifery. Anybody wanting to be a midwife should attend the school of midwifery, be registered and licensed to practice by the Nursing and Midwifery council of Nigeria, otherwise, they are referred to as quacks in the nursing profession.
Midwives are not trained to train others, but to practise and render their services as midwives in the maternity wards. Midwifery training is exclusively left for the school of midwifery to handle.
It has been discovered that majority of nurses in private hospitals are quacks, whereas registered nurses working there do all sorts of jobs. What is the association’s reaction to this?
Trained nurses are no quacks, and quacks are not trained nurses. Some private-owned hospitals believe that a shortcut to obtaining nursing services is by training quacks, who are used to murder patients in the disguise of providing nursing services. In addition, some of them cannot afford the salary of trained nurses, while some exploit the bad economy and high unemployment rate. Unfortunately, this is done at the expense of the patient’s life!
I therefore appeal to their consciences to employ trained nurses and midwives to render qualitative health care to the patients. This will elevate their hospital standard and increase the flow of patients. No amount of millions or pounds sterling can bring back a lost life.
We strongly plead with the federal and state governments to employ new nurses as the older ones retire, in order to reduce untimely death and improve the quality of life of nurses in Nigeria.
What are the challenges of nursing practice in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole, and how can they be solved?
The challenges facing the nursing profession are enormous. On the priority list is shortage of nurses and midwives throughout the federation. Secondly, inadequate recognition of the nursing profession, coupled with the inability of the majority of people, especially the lower socio-economic class, to differentiate between a trained nurse and a quack (anybody in white uniform is erroneously referred to as a nurse).
Thirdly, ignorance about who a trained nurse is and what nursing, as a profession, entails especially by some medical doctors. With reference to the insulting statement made by the president of NMA, Dr Obembe, that his used gloves could only be disposed of by a nurse, otherwise his licence would be seized – if a medical doctor of that status could display such high level of ignorance against another profession to the whole world through the media, then one wonders the species of doctors being produced in this country. Most of them travel abroad to humbly undergo nursing training, to be relevant in the health sector over there. They are trained by experienced nurses in the wards; but after that they disregard and rubbish them. This is highly unethical.
As the Lagos NANNM chairman, what is your goal for all nurses in Lagos before the expiration of your tenure?
My goal is to ensure that the services rendered by nurses and midwives in Lagos State are qualitative, life-changing, standard-proven and full of recognition, both in the public and private sectors; to ensure that nurses put in their best at all times and the nursing image is highly competitive with the international standard.
I know that, very soon, we shall attain these heights by God’s grace.