Midwives and nurses must take the lead in improving Pakistan’s health system, experts say

​Midwives and nurses must take the lead in improving Pakistan’s health system, experts say​

May 13, 2016

​Speakers highlighted the threats posed by global health crises and the role of nurses and midwives in keeping Pakistan’s health system resilient in the face of new risks at a symposium to commemorate International Nurses and Midwives Day at the Aga Khan University.

In a world that is vulnerable to disease outbreaks such as the current mosquito-borne Zika virus spreading across Latin America, swine flu and last year’s Ebola virus pandemic in West Africa, and where climate change is leaving populations exposed to soaring temperatures and natural disasters, care from well-prepared nurses and midwives can save lives.

“As nurses, we need to be thinking ahead of our role during disease outbreaks or natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes,” said Salma Jaffer, chief nursing officer at AKU. “We are at the front line of providing treatment to affected people, communicating reliable information and dispelling fears. It is essential that nurses are both aware of and ready to play their role in a health crisis.”

Nurses and midwives both have a critical role to play in health systems, in keeping mothers and children healthy. Ms Arusa Lakhani, director of midwifery at AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, pointed out that Pakistan has the third-highest number of maternal deaths in the world, with 1 in 400 mothers – 276 deaths per 100,000 live births – dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Improving maternal health indicators is a public health priority and Ms Lakhani highlighted that UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population) was funding a higher education programme at the School to improve the skills of practicing midwives. The Post-RM BScM programme is  using a mixture of face-to-face education and elearning to reach out to midwives in all the provinces.

“Investing in midwifery pays in strengthening health system and in managing humanitarian crisis,” Ms Lakhani added. “We hope to do even more in the future to improve the transfer of knowledge and skills to health workers – we are looking at designing mobile apps that will help us provide short education videos and even advice in Urdu and Sindhi.”

Ms Lakhani hopes that AKU’s new undergraduate degree in midwifery and its higher education programme continues to equip midwives with the new skills, concepts and the confidence to offer all-round assistance and support to expectant mothers, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

"A pregnant woman should be able to decide who will deliver her child. She should not hesitate in seeking a midwife who can assess her fitness to deliver a child outside a hospital. Whether a mother lives in a busy city or a far-flung rural area, she has a right to a safe birth,” she stated.

Nurses too have to deal with challenging situations and modern-day problems every day that affect their ability to remain resilient. However, “nurses must always be prepared, mindful of a patient’s circumstances and strive to treat them with dignity,” said Ms Yasmin Vellani, general surgery nursing specialist at the Aga Khan University Hospital. “Keeping these principles in mind will enable nurses to continue to be a force for good.”

Since 1981, AKU’s nursing school has trained over 3,762 nurses to advocate for patients’ rights and to assist patients suffering from everything from cancer to the common flu. To date, 24 midwives have graduated from the bachelor’s programme in midwifery.

Prominent speakers on the day included chief guest Brig. Razia Ishfaq, director, Armed Forces Nursing Services, and keynote speaker Surriya Shahnaz, vice-president, Pakistan Nursing Council.

STAY INFORMED

Follow AKU’s social media sites, news feeds.