Recently, International Nurses Day was observed globally to acknowledge the role of nurses of KP in the healthcare system. This week, You! shares stories of a few female nurses, who entered the profession regardless of all the taboos attached to it...
According to an excerpt from the ‘The American Journal of Nursing’, “nursing is not considered as a profession (strictly speaking), it is in fact an honourable calling and nothing further.”
However, this article was published back in 1914, and even now to be recognised and practice as a nurse, one needs to go through a lot of troubles to fight many social barriers. The age old ideology about the profession of nursing in Pakistan still lingers which doesn’t regard being a nurse as prestigious as it would for a doctor, engineer, lawyer etc. Specifically in the KP province, nursing is considered as a profession for the lower strata of the society where people acquire it just for making both ends meet. The affluent class finds it beneath them to send their children to this particular profession. Also, not being provided with the basic rights, training and education in the field is another de-motivating factor.
Every year, International Nurses Day is observed around the world on 12th May which is also the birthday of renowned English nurse, Florence Nightingale - a pioneer of modern nursing, who changed its face, making it a well-respected medical profession. This year as well, the day was observed to acknowledge the role of nurses in the healthcare system. Keeping this in mind, this week You! brings forward a few success stories of brave nurses from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, who entered and survived in the profession regardless of hardships they endured.
As the American Journal of Nursing suggests, the profession should be given respect because nurses play an integral part in the recovery of patients. They make a patient comfortable in bed. Also, monitoring all aspects of the patient care, for instance suggesting physical activities, alongside providing emotional support to the families of patients are just a few of their prime responsibilities. However, in KP, nurses are facing the problems of gender discrimination, family pressure, stressful work environment and unorganised service structure. According to renowned health journalist, Noman Jan, “Eliminating the stigma of gender discrimination from our society is need of the hour because we can’t progress in health sector without this. “We must accept the reality that men and women are the basic pillars of the society and it can’t develop without decreasing gap between the two. It is rather deplorable that nurses are not being given due status in the society. Due to the conventional mindset, nurses face a number of problems during duty hours, including sense of insecurity and harassment on the part of their male counterparts and other people coming to the hospital.”
Also according to the sources, their salaries are lower than the nurses of Punjab and other areas, and a large number of them face unavailability of facilitated accommodation at hospitals. Although the KP government has passed and imposed Medical Teaching Institutions Act (MTI), 2015, still many nurses are unsatisfied with it.
As health education among public is unsatisfactory in the province and majority of the common people are unaware of the protocols of treatment at hospitals and health centres, they treat nurses inhumanly while interacting with them. The ratio of nurses to patients is also very low, which is why nurses are unable to provide their services in a professional way. This situation also affects their behaviour and many times patients and their attendants complain against them.
Despite all these problems and hurdles in the field of nursing in KP, we have some stories in which nurses have proved themselves successful and are now happy and prosperous.
Dynamic & dedicated
Anwar Sultana works at Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar, and is the general secretary of Nursing Association. Having 24 years of experience in nursing care, Sultana has outstanding interpersonal skills and is capable of addressing complex issues. She did her B.Sc (Nursing) as well as post-graduation. While sharing her story, Ms Sultana states, “In my childhood, I always admired doctors and the field of medicine. As a chiild, I would play the role of a doctor and treated people.” Sultana worked really hard to achieve her goal of making a difference in the field. Despite belonging to a conservative family background, she didn’t give up. “There was no concept of education in my family. I struggled a lot to join nursing because of my relatives’ mindset; however, my father and other family members strongly supported me,” she tells
Nurses are expected to play various roles depending on the situation. These include being the caregivers, well-wishers and mentors, but Sultana has something to add, “Our people continue to hold negative views about nurses. Whenever our female relatives are admitted in the hospital, our first priority is to ensure that a female nurse looks after her. The irony is that we don’t allow our own daughters and sisters to join the nursing profession. When will this dual standard end? When we know the positive role of nursing and healthcare, why is it considered dishonourable when a close female relative wants to become a nurse?”
Sultana believes that the presence of a nurse, no doubt, is a ray of hope for a patient and the role of nurses cannot be eliminated from the healthcare system at any cost. This is the thought that keeps her going in a profession which is registered by the society in a positive way.
The one who broke the chains
Ms Mehtab, a senior nurse residing in Bannu district of KP, works at Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar. She is the senior vice president of Nursing Association, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Besides doing B.Sc (Nursing), she also acquired Masters in Public Health (MPH) and other relevant diplomas. With 23 years of experience in nursing care, she has performed her duties at IDPs camp in Bannu district and received an award for Best Nurse due to her outstanding performance.
While sharing her success story, Ms Mehtab says “I belong to a very conservative family where there was no concept of women’s education. However, I was very much interested in education since childhood and did matriculation in the midst of many difficulties. After completing secondary education, I wanted to become a doctor but my father stopped me from receiving further education. Therefore, I left home. My father disinherited me. That is why I left for Peshawar and got enrolled in a course for nursing. After successful completion of my diploma, I joined the profession and started performing my duties.”
Mehtab further adds, “My father was my strong opponent. However, he got ill and came to Peshawar for treatment. His condition was very serious. I tried my best to facilitate him. Due to my services, he eventually realised his mistake and was ashamed of his attitude but I forgave him and now my family is no longer against my profession.”
Ms Meherunissa is also a senior nurse hailing from Risalpur locality of Nowshehra district. She works as a lecturer at the College of Nursing, Hayatabad, Peshawar. She is a competent nursing educationist with more than 30 years of experience in the field of nursing. She did B.Sc (Nursing) and trains students and young nurses in a decent and professional way.
While talking about herself, Meherunissa explains, “My elder sister was a nurse by profession. I always admired her headstrong personality and dedication towards her profession. One day, I decided to opt for nursing in order to serve the ailing humanity.”
Although, Meherunissa faced many struggles in the field, she has managed to perform well in a hostile environment. “During times of extreme inflation, nurses are forced to work in many hospitals at a time to make ends meet. They have to perform duties for long hours, just like doctors. In the case of an emergency, they are expected to perform extra work without receiving incentives. Frequent complaints of exploitation at private hospitals is another issue,” informs Meherunissa. She is still fighting each day to serve humanity and break barriers. She is quite dedicated to her profession and aspires to do the same in future as well.