Statement by the Barbados Nurses Association to mark International Women’s Day 2021
Being in the leadership roles of Nursing Officer and an Executive Member of the Professional Nurses Association, I reflect on my earlier years and some foundation lessons that stayed with me, such as to work hard for everything I want and to challenge and push boundaries because nothing is handed to you. As I grew older, I accepted that it is okay to be different from the crowd, but you must be strong enough to carry your own weight and the weight of the world, if you are going to challenge the system. It is a lesson that came with many tears and pain but very effective in developing the woman that I am today.
Historically, women in Nursing, have played major leading roles, setting the tone for much of the Infection Prevention and Control practices of the current Public Health Crisis caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic among other things. These heroines namely: Florence Nightingale who revolutionized public Health, Mary Seacole, Caribbean heroine; who prescribed remedies for yellow fever and Eunice Gibson, Founder of the then Barbados Registered Nurses Association, (Now Barbados Nurses Association) who was instrumental in developing Public/Community Health Nursing.
Women have continually been asked to prove themselves and overtime, we have seen a shift; where women are more vocal and visual in leadership roles of business corporations, governments and more specifically, the roles played in the fight to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic.
There is a school of thought aligned with the Sustainable Development goals 2030 that posits: when women work, economies grow. We have seen this notion challenged during the COVID-19 Pandemic, with more job losses and increased concerns of abuse due to dependence on abusive partners. It almost appears to have placed a damper in the many developments of the gender equality activists and feminists’ movements.
The presence of this “invisible enemy” COVID-19, has had multifaceted impact and its effects are dependent on the frame we analyze it through. While acknowledging the contributions of our male counterparts in the Nursing Profession; in this moment, I wish to redirect the vision to a particular group of women who are champions at this time.
The International Woman’s Day theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future in this COVID-19 response. Today, in this profession we continue to see the presence of leadership in the form of our Nurses leading the charge in this fight to revolutionize our healthcare system. I am deliberate in speech by not referring to the idea of “returning to our old system” because like any good system, there comes a point where evolution must take place. COVID-19 is our opportunity to evolve, to network, to dissect the old structure and reinvent it looking through another frame. I call on the nursing fraternity not to be fearful, but to be enriched with excitement at this opportunity to be ingenious, to be assertive and to be visionaries.
I call on the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the government and leaders of Barbados which comprises strong female leaders, to recognize and action the findings of the “State of theWorld Nursing Report” 2020, by the World Health Organization (WHO), supported by the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The findings result from analysis of National Health Workforce Account (NHWA) data from 191 Member States, outlining the projected shortfall of nurses by 2030; and forward-looking policy options for an agenda to strengthen the nursing workforce, to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, improve health for all, and fortify the primary health care workforce, on our journey towards Universal Health Coverage.
The State of the World Nursing Report therefore presents a compelling case for considerable and feasible investment in nursing education, jobs, leadership, and retention.
There is an old adage that posits “the health of a nation is the wealth of a nation” and the realization is that tremendous responsibility rests in the hands of a nurse generally, but it has hopefully become even more visible to the policy makers and the general public after this experience with COVID-19. That adage is substantiated by Nordic Health Ministers’ (who lead the world in Health and Social Services) statistical research that shows how a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or wealth, is tied to the state of health of the nation. It is also noted that businesses and countries run by women, usually have substantially better outcomes.
We look to what is a realistic and futuristic approach for healthcare and how we can shape opportunity for all, into an equal future. An equal future involves recognizing and prioritizing this profession, with the understanding that it is one of the tentacles that drives the overall wealth of nations.
Nurse leader opportunities and specializations should be made available with the requisite funding, considering our base salaries are not adequate to compete for basic security items e.g. mortgages. Remuneration for the work of nursing practice, administration, education and regulation, should be addressed and improved with salary scales not overlapping, a secure system in place for guaranteed salaries, benefits and increments. Consideration must be given to a general health insurance and hazard allowance for all, considering the inherent risk in being a nurse.
If we have learned anything from this pandemic, let it be that we have to create new areas of access for health services. It is paramount that we build on traditional skills, while embracing technological advancements to reach a wider patient population.
We must utilize the virtual platform to its fullest magnitude and embrace those lessons learnt in COVID-19, while strategically using them to transform who we are.
The pandemic has driven us to embrace the full gamut of technology in a short time. The call is to embrace the platforms in a structured way, embracing two important aspects: education and training for staff and patients with the use of innovation and technology and wellness for staff.
The call also involves lobbying for improved healthcare systems with integrated and connected access to include all stake holders, in an attempt to create seamless processes, reduce errors and improve accountability for those accessing information with a digital footprint.
Nurses’ ability to self-manage is important but resources must also be in place to assist them. Recognizing that the population is predominantly female, indicates these present-day heroines are mothers, students, wives, community leaders and are responsible fundamentally, for shaping countries. With respect to wellness, it will be necessary to brand institutions culturally and create that business mindset, where the wellness of the staff is paramount, to give customers the best quality the brand has to offer.
Barbados Nurses Association therefore suggests a more meaningful dialogue in recognition of a tripartite system involving participation, access, and action.
Nursing is a predominately female driven profession; a member of the largest female organization in the world and therefore satisfies the condition for participation. We are leaders of many institutions of healthcare, education, regulation etc. and bearers of scientific knowledge that guides our practice of care delivery, enabling our patients to return to a state of wellness or transition.
Access, in the sense that our health care services are delivered with much efficiency and quality; maintaining the principles of confidentiality and protection of patient information.
Action, with respect to implementing all resources required by the drivers of this healthcare delivery system, to execute their tasks successfully.
Today, we celebrate all those women who lead the charge daily and continue to show why we should be celebrated.
On this International Women’s Day 2021, The President and Executive of Barbados Nurses Association, extend sincerest thank you, to all those women who have been sleeping giants of this profession, from the era of our founder, Eunice Gibson (1936) to present day. To the Chief Nurses, Principal Nursing Officers, Directors of Nursing, Senior Officers;, to those women leading the isolation & quarantine facilities, to those in private practice, to every Nursing Auxiliary/Health Aide, Nursing Assistant, Registered Nurse, Mental Health Nurse, Midwife, Community Health Nurse, Gerontology Nurse, Retired Nurse, we thank you and encourage you to continue to be phenomenal! You are all truly appreciated.