(By Temitope Obayendo)
In this exclusive chat with Pharmanews, Mrs Mojisola Okelola, chairperson of West African College of Nursing (WACN), Nigeria chapter, reveals all there is to know about WACN. She also highlighted the advantages Fellows of the institute have over other nurses.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Tell us about yourself, especially your early years
My name is Mrs Mojisola Titilayo Okelola. I am the current chairman of the West African College of Nursing (WACN), Nigeria chapter. I am a psychiatric nurse. I retired as an Assistant Director of Nursing Services at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos.
I did my psychiatric nursing training at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric hospital Abeokuta. I
had my general nursing training at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba.
I did my nursing administration and management at the University of Benin, Benin City. I also attended the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) where I did my Advanced Management Course. I am a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
I am someone who is consistently growing and takes time to continue learning even though it’s not a direct requirement for the job. I had my BNSc. from the Open University of Nigeria.
I find that many times my professional growth is based on what I studied directly and indirectly in relation to my work.
Why did you choose nursing as a career?
My motivation to choose nursing as a profession was from my mum, who observed that I was a kind, caring and happy child. She encouraged me so much to the extent that she personally went to collect the School of Nursing form for me. Being a nurse has offered me the opportunity to help others and make a difference in their lives on a daily basis. I like working often one-on-one with patients and assist them to recovery and rehabilitation.
When you help others, empathise with them, as well as exercise patience and dedication towards them, it makes you emotionally stable, fulfilled and happy in life.
As the WACN chairperson in Nigeria, what are the objectives of the institution?
The objectives of WACN are: to promote excellence in nursing education (basic and post basic level) and maintain the standard of nursing within the sub-region; formulate and support nursing educational programmes; contribute to the improvement of health care within the West African sub-region; plan and implement continuing educational programmes for nursing personnel; and promote and encourage research in the field of nursing.
In fulfilment of these objectives, WACN plans and implements workshops and seminars throughout the sub-region. Its major activities are carried out through its five constituent faculties, namely:
1. Medical surgical nursing, with three sub-areas: critical nursing (accident and emergency, intensive care, peri-operative nursing, special care babies nursing); palliative nursing (terminally ill (HIV/AIDS, Cancers etc.) rehabilitation); and adult nursing (non-communicable diseases).
2. Reproductive health nursing (MCH)
3. Mental health/psychiatric nursing
4. Community health nursing
5. Faculty of administration, management.
What are the benefits of being a Fellow of WACN and what qualities make a Fellow differ from a non-Fellow?
At WACN, efforts are put in place to ensure that our Fellows gain certain qualities that set them apart from non-Fellows. Chief among these are leadership and management skills. The goal of the WACN is to strengthen the public health sector of the West African sub-region. One way of doing this is to provide a platform for members to meet and share ideas about how to improve the health care sector. Members do collaborate on issues that affect the health care sector.
Fellows envision the future and lead the way in nurturing productive personnel. We don’t stop seeking additional professional growth and opportunities to make a difference in our profession. Fellows are encouraged to be politically conscious. Fellows are also encouraged to read professional journals and to attend continuing education courses in the nursing field.
We also run workshops – faculty by faculty, zone by zone, as well as branch by branch. Constant continuing education enhances the knowledge of nurses and this in turn improves the quality of care that patients receive. These workshops and seminars provide the platform for advancements in the field of medicine and caregiving to be discussed. Therefore it is important to stay abreast of current research to make sure patients are given the most up-to-date treatment.
As a Fellow of WACN, you are able to demonstrate confidence at all times. Self-confidence is essential in leadership. As a Fellow, the courage is always there for you. You are willing to take calculated risks as a good leader. As a Fellow, you are able to communicate clearly and consistently and remember to listen.
Recently, nurses and other health care workers planned an industrial action which was suspended eventually. Do WACN Fellows believe in strike as a tool for pressing their demands?
It is important to listen to the voices of heath care providers, including physicians, nurses and pharmacists, before policies that affect the health sector are formulated. For us to have a healthy nation, we must reform the health care sector. Workers in the sector ought to be treated better. The recurrent issues of understaffing, overworking and underpaying employees should be addressed. These are not only detrimental to the workers but also to the patients who depend on the attentive care of their medical providers.
When government promises to do things to improve the health sector, it should fulfil its promise and should not wait until the workers go on strike or until it notices there is an impending strike. And those at the helm of affairs in the Ministry of Health should not give preferential treatment and engage in discriminative practices amongst various professionals. We all have our professional roles to play in the health sector.
What are some of the challenges of WACN and how can they be resolved?
We have our challenges in the institution, chief among which is finance. Our small subvention is not regular and even when it comes, it is late. Our offices at the headquarters (6, Taylor Drive Yaba, Lagos) are not well-equipped.
Also some institutions refuse to sponsor nurses for courses and workshops thereby denying them the opportunity to gain much-needed knowledge.
What’s your advice to nurses across the nation?
My advice to nurses across the nation is to remember that our profession is a calling and, so, when there is a misunderstanding between the nurses and the government, we, as advocates of our clients, should embrace dialogue.