I was at a supermarket recently for last-minute Christmas shopping and as it is around this time of the year, the queues to the cashier were long. As I waited in line, I started scanning my surroundings when my eyes were met by a signage on the wall ahead with categories of people excepted from lining up in case of long queues. The list included pensioners, police officers, pregnant women, Doctors, and Nurses.
Being a nurse, I was amazed to see that my profession made the list. I was also quite eager to know more about how the list was made and why they had selected those professions. When I inquired about it, I was pointed to the customer help desk where I introduced myself also highlighting that I’m a nurse and had taken interest in their signage on people exempted from lining up in the supermarket.
‘’Nurses are busy people, they are always rushing to save lives and we thought this special attention would help save them some time that would otherwise be spent in the long lines,” the lady behind the desk intimated.
I felt so proud to be a nurse at that moment, something I have not felt in a long time. To know that there were people out there in the community who truly recognize and appreciate nurses for who they are and what they bring to the table was refreshing.
It is not often that nurses get the recognition and credit for the contribution they make to the health care system despite constituting the largest number of workers. That is why that gesture by Shoprite supermarket, though seemingly simple, made me happy.
According to the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council (UNMC), Uganda has a total of 70,167 nurses and midwives. In a report by the Ministry of Health (MOH) many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda inclusive, have nurses and midwives making up to 80% of the total health workforce.
The work conditions may not be very favorable for most nurses and midwives, the paycheck may not be very good but an exceptional recognition and appreciation to that nurse means much to them than you can imagine. Whichever way you choose to appreciate your favorite nurse or midwife, it could be a hug, a smile, kind words, a cup of tea, a ride to or from duty, or a Christmas gift. The small gesture you extend in whichever format could be all the nurse needs to pull through their next shift at work.
Let us help the nurses feel proud of their profession and work, let us brighten their faces with smiles despite the prevailing challenges.
Interestingly, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has designated 2021 as the international year of health and care workers (YHCW) in recognition of the dedication and sacrifice of millions of healthcare workers at the forefront of the covid-19 pandemic. I hope that through wins, the recognition that nurses and midwives received this year continues to motivate and empower us as we serve fellow citizens.
As we wind down the year, I urge all of you to reach out to nurses and midwives and continue to make them feel special. This year has been a hectic year for each one of us in all sorts of ways, but I trust and believe that there is still a lot of goodwill in us.
According to the WHO, the world needs more than 9 million nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. More young people will be motivated, inspired, and driven to join nursing and midwifery if the profession is given due respect and recognition.
Judith Hope Kiconco
Nurse & Public Health specialist