KARACHI                  -               Nurses and midwives are the lynchpin of healthcare around the world and investing in these health professionals is investing in resilient health systems that can be the first line of defence against interna­tional crisis such as COVID-19 and in meeting people’s health needs and expectations, said speakers at a virtual seminar held to celebrate International Nurses Day and 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

“The dedication with which nurses and midwives continue to work during these challeng­ing times is exemplary and, in their absence, healthcare fa­cilities will not be able to func­tion properly,” said Dr Azra Pechuho, Sindh Minister for Health and Population.

She, in a communique on Tuesday, also stressed the im­portance of higher education of affiliating nursing colleges and schools with medical universi­ties to promote undergradu­ate degrees and of encourag­ing practicing nurses to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees while continuing to work.

This would ensure the avail­ability of highly skilled and com­petent professionals equipped to take on public health chal­lenges and to shape the future of our healthcare system.

Nurses and midwives make up the largest group of healthcare professionals and are often the first point of care for individuals and families.

Yet, there is a global shortage of these health professionals and the World Health Organiza­tion estimates that an additional 9 million nurses and midwives will be needed by 2030 for uni­versal health coverage.

Ms Afshan Nazli, president of the Pakistan Nursing Council also praised the courage and services of frontline nurses and midwives stepping up during this pandemic.

“The ongoing public health crisis has posed some important questions and challenges to our healthcare and education sys­tems. “We need to ask ourselves if our nurses were adequately trained and prepared for such healthcare emergencies,” she said.

The idea of supporting fur­ther education and training was debated several times. Dr Ro­zina Karmaliani, interim dean of AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, noted that one of the ways to address the shortage of highly skilled nurses was by creating opportunities for the many nursing diploma holders in the country to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“There is a paradigm shift in nursing education and practice. It has now moved into speciali­sation and advanced nursing practices,” she said. “If nursing and midwifery professionals are to keep pace and to meet today’s healthcare demands, it is essen­tial for all practicing nurses to invest in themselves and to build their competencies through con­tinuing education.”

AKU interim CEO Shagufta Has­san emphasized that in order to reposition the profession, it was equally important for nurses to be able to advocate for them­selves and pose as equal part­ners dedicated to improving the healthcare journey of patients.

AKU Medical College Dean Dr Adil Haider shared that this year’s theme ‘nursing the world to health’ very well encapsulates what the nurses do and how they rise to the challenge like they were doing at the moment to care for COVID-19 patients.

Keynote addresses from Dr Salimah Meghani, Profes­sor, University of Pennsylvania, USA, and Shelley Nowland, chief nursing and midwifery officer, Queensland Health, Australia, shared how the nursing and midwifery practices have trans­formed in the past few decades in their regions.

Several encouraging video messages from nursing and mid­wifery leaders across Pakistan were followed by a panel discus­sion where the unique involve­ment of nurses and midwives during the time of birth as well as end-of-life care was highlighted.

At the end, the message from experts was that nurses played a substantive role in improving health outcomes at every stage of life, and so it was important that they were supported and involved at every level, including health policy, to improve health indicators in Pakistan.