Opinion: Malawi nurses’ plan to find work abroad should not be disrupted


By Lucious C. Gerrald

Nursing and Midwifery profession was discovered and founded by Florence Nightingale, an upper class British woman who captured the public imagination when she led a group of female nurses to the Crimea in October of 1854 to deliver nursing services to wounded British soldiers.

Upon her return to England, Nightingale successfully established nurse education programs in a number of British hospitals. These schools were organized around a specific set of ideas about how nurses should be educated, developed by Nightingale often referred to as the “Nightingale Principles.”

Actually, while Nightingale’s work was ground-breaking in that she confirmed that a corps of educated women, informed about health and the ways to promote it, could improve the care of patients based on a set of particular principles, she was the not the first to put these principles into action.

The outbreak of the Civil War in Britain created an immediate need for capable nurses to care for the enormous number of sick and wounded soldiers and ordinary citizens. About 20,000 women and men served as nurses in both the North and the South. The commendable service rendered by Civil War nurses provided a rationale for future experiments in setting up training programs for nursing.

One such program was initiated in Pennsylvania where the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia offered a six months nurse training course, supervised by medical doctors, which graduated its first class in 1869. Similar courses, such as that offered by the New England Hospital for Women and Children were begun in other locales.

Similarly, the nursing and midwifery education spouted everywhere around the globe. Millions of nurses are being trained to supplement care provision to clients and patients in hospital and, also in different communities of the globe including in Malawi.

In Malawi, yearly, thousands of Nurses and midwives are graduating and await facing the real industry with low demands of recruiting these healthcare providers. To this effect, numerous nurses are just staying idle without working, a thing which worries their parents and sponsors.

In June, 2022, as one way of arresting the dramatic increase in number of nurses and midwives who are unemployed, the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (NONM),  through its President Mr Shouts Simeza, made a million times milestone development.

NONM communicated to the Malawi nation that the organisation intends to secure jobs for 5,000 unemployed nurses in Saudi Arabia and United States of America (USA), starting from next month, August, for a period of 5 years.

The development, according to a sketchy observation within the unemployed nurses circle, has brought hope and future enjoyment in the minds of these young nurses and midwives.

However, some quarters and other healthcare professions have expressed, undoubtedly, disagreement with the move.

To them, as per their say, the development moved by NONM of partnering with overseas countries to recruit 5,000 unemployed Malawian nurses, who are just eating dusts in the streets of cities and districts, is a wastage of human capital.

Latest of it all being the Association of Medical Doctors pronouncement, which seem so uncomfortable with the news that from next month, 1,000 unemployed nurses and midwives are moving to Saudi Arabia to work in different health facilities.

According to Dr. Victor Mithi, who heads the Society of Medical Doctors, he views the whole move as untimely and deserves a total reverse to its entirety, as it will brain-drain the Malawi’ healthcare provision in the already crippling health system.

Positively, the Society also lamented that exporting nurses to USA for work shows that the Malawi government has failed big time on its responsibility of training and recruiting them into the health system. Mithi added that if nurses will be allowed to fly abroad, this will also prompt Doctors to move away for greener pastures too.

A quickly analysis of what the learned Malawian Medical Doctors assertions over the recruitment of nurses to oversea countries, shows that they are still not happy with the independence nurses gained numerous decades ago through the efforts of Nightingale.

The Association was recorded in Malawi media outlets, that they will seek an audience with Ministry of Health so that they should stop NONM from furthering their plans of exporting unemployed nurses and midwives to Saudi Arabia and USA.

In a sane and sober point of view, they (Doctors) still want to be technically controlling the nursing and midwifery profession, which is taken as the core center and heart of the healthcare provision in every country.

Undisputed facts remain that Doctors and Nurses fall under different professions with different legal roles and functions. Despite that these two professions work in the same setting (Hospital) and with a common goal of caring for the sick, they don’t share common leadership.

Observably, Doctors as health professionals have their own regulatory body, Medical Council of Malawi (MCM) with a parallel leadership, while on the other hand, Nurses are headed by Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi (NMCM), with its own leadership.

Two professionals working within the same setting and with common goal, should not give a certain profession over-excitement and powers that they can control the other. They need to respect the other noble group of workers who has their own independent scope of practice.

Nevertheless, each profession should stick to their values that guide the scope of work they are employed for to avoid infringing other profession’ core values. For instance, it can be so absurd to hear that immigration officers are barring Police officers from going to any other country for work because these two professions are different and are headed by different leadership despite being under same ministry.

None of sane parent, guardian or sponsor can be happy seeing a graduate whom they financially sponsored with millions of kwacha in form of tuition fees and allowances, roaming around the streets jobless while there is a greener pasture somewhere growing freely and waiting for eaters (nurses) to eat it.

Additionally, to train a single nurse from CHAM nursing college, sponsors cough 1.2 million per one academic year compared to that of lower amount of training a medical doctor, encompassed in the said Association medical doctors, from College of Medicine as they pay at least 400,000 per the same one academic year.

With kind hearts, authorities should be happy that thousands of lives of unemployed nurses and midwives will change to the betterment of their families who look up on them. They deserve support so that they can go and work  abroad health facilities since government is failing to employ them.

Otherwise, the learned Doctors should lobby government with their own ways of recruiting unemployed Doctors who are also struggling to make ends meet in the streets. They should concentrate on finding their own partners who might also import these struggling medical doctors in their countries.

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