Nurses have vital role in disease prevention and control

By Rauna Namukwambi

TODAY, the celebration of International Nurses’ Day coincides with the International Year of Nurses and Midwives, 2020. The year is designated by the World Health Organisation in recognition of and tribute to the marvelous work of nurses and midwives. This includes the sacrifices they make in ensuring that the public receives the needed health care, and by saving lives.

All this is achieved through their selflessness, regardless of the risks involved in being exposed to all various illnesses and also having limited healthcare resources. As the fight against Covid-19 rages on, we are proud to be a leading healthcare workforce and frontline fighters ready to combat this pandemic.

Nursing is a caring profession that has evolved over the years in response to the health needs of the population, which includes caring for the sick and providing Population-Based Healthcare. Nursing practitioners require knowledge and skills to evaluate the health status of patients, families and communities.

Nurses are frontline health professionals at primary healthcare level, which is the entry to the public health system in many countries across the world, with roles such as screening and treating patients, providing individual and group health education both in healthcare facilities and in the communities. They also provide preventive services, such as immunization and condom distribution. Equally, they provide health promoting services, such as antenatal care, family planning, cervical screening and treatment, and many more.

Nurses’ roles have expanded to include identifying trends of new infections using the routine health information at the point of care to respond promptly to unusual health condition trends. Being the majority of the health workforce across the world, and serving at points of entry to the health care system, nurses often have a deeper understanding of patients’ medical histories and their conditions. Hence, they need adequate support when advocating for improvement in the healthcare system as they understand the system far much better than other healthcare workers.

Patients come to healthcare facilities fragile, worried about their health and that of their families. It’s the responsibility of nurses to treat them with a sense of humour and empathy, despite limited resources in the public health setting. There is a lot of frustration amongst nurses regarding the inadequate supply of pharmaceuticals, clinical supplies and other logistics.

It is from this background that we would like to call on individuals, the private sector and government to support nurses in executing their duties. This will create an enabling environment for them to thrive and provide quality healthcare services, especially in the emergency of daunting diseases such as Covid-19. It will equally enable them to be prepared for other potential outbreaks in future, as they continue to battle other health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and infant mortality rates which continue to threaten humankind.

Apart from providing healthcare services to the sick in healthcare facilities, nurses are also required to educate the public on precautionary measures to prevent communicable and non-communicable diseases. They further provide screening and treatment in communities. Because of their community health and clinical background, they need to have knowledge and skills to provide comprehensive healthcare services.

Nurses are also involved in the development of any platform introduced to expand health services, as nurses have both theoretical and practical knowledge of how health service delivery can be designed, coordinated and effectively implemented. In this era of Covid-19, robust health education should be enhanced at all levels of care in the health system, especially at a community level.

In this the International Year of Midwives and Nurses 2020, we would like to acknowledge the teams that work with us in the health system, because, we alone cannot achieve it all. These include but not limited to medical doctors, pharmacists, social workers, environmental health practitioners, emergency care practitioners, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and nutritionists. As nurses, we call on leaders across the world to fulfil the promise of universal health coverage to bridge health inequalities.

* Rauna Namukwambi is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner and lecturer in Community Health Nursing Science at the University of Namibia’s Southern Campus. She writes in her personal capacity.