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Time of reflection for nurses

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Message from the President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses Association – Beverly Bobb-Liverpool

It is with joy, hope and love that I greet all nurses in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who was born for us in the manger in Bethlehem.

It is fascinating to watch the unfolding of the Christmas Spirit at this time of the year. Music, home-made bread and cake, “Nine Mornings”, hustling and bustling about town, Christmas lighting, church-going, the sharing of gifts and so forth. As nurses, we need to be cognizant of a number of things during these celebrations. We must never lose sight of the fact that we have been charged with the awesome responsibility of delivering quality care to the citizens and the visitors to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Therefore, we ought to keep at the forefront of our minds what Christmas means to us as nurses and in so doing, demonstrate our crystallized understanding of such.{{more}}

At the core of the nursing profession lies the patient/client. The nurse is temporarily the consciousness for the unconscious, the love of life for the suicidal, the leg of the amputee, the eyes of the newly blind, a means of locomotion for the infant, knowledge and confidence for the young mother and a “voice” for those who are too weak to speak. Clearly, the demands placed on nurses are tremendous. Yet, nurses continue to render service and make sacrifice at an even greater risk given the increase in violence and adverse socio-economic circumstances. As we celebrate and commemorate, it is important that we reflect on the year 2006 and make critical and logical decisions to take our nursing profession into the New Year and beyond.

Certainly, we must reflect on the quality of nursing care provided to the patient/client. Since it is the responsibility of every nurse to ensure that a high standard of care is maintained at all times. The profession is accountable for ensuring that such care meets established standards of excellence.

Currently, there have been significant changes to the health workforce and this is no more evident than in the nursing workforce in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Migration patterns to countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, British Virgin Islands and more recently St. Lucia are exacerbating workforce shortages in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Within recent months, eleven registered nurses and two nursing assistants, particularly the experienced ones, some with specialized training, have secured employment regionally and internationally with the hope of satisfying professional and personal needs. This shortage has placed greater demands on the remaining nurses with often significantly increased workloads and responsibilities. In addition to financial and other pressures, the health consumer has generally become more educated and this has posed additional pressures and challenges to health professionals.

Findings from an assessment conducted by the SVG Nurses Association in 2006 revealed that nurses cited the following reasons for resignations: poor remuneration, poor working conditions, lack of incentives for work done, lack of benefits such as health insurance, housing allowance and provision of transportation, and inadequate pensions, minimal opportunities for upward mobility through training for professional and personal development, inadequate security at the workplace, overwork due to staff shortage.

It can be concluded from the foregoing that nurses may become disillusioned and dissatisfied if prevailing conditions are allowed to persist. The St Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses Association recognizes that there is a need to ensure that the nursing profession continues to work with consumers and community groups in responding to the health problems facing communities. It is time that serious consideration be given to the health system’s most valuable asset. The globalization of health and nursing through the GATS Agreement of the World Trade Organization has resulted in an increased movement of nurses across the world. Second to tourism, nursing is the next single largest mover of personnel. If this trend in the movement of nurses from the workforce in St Vincent and the Grenadines continues in the first half of 2007, it will threaten work stability, standards and quality of health and nursing care, training and qualification of nurses, staffing by hospitals and other health care institutions.

The report of the Caribbean Commission of Health and Development (2006) recommends that as a complement to the programme of managed migration, as endorsed by the CARICOM Ministers of Health, a regional approach of temporary migration of nurses should be actively promoted.

Meanwhile, it may be useful to remind ourselves that this quiet reflection period will soon pass and we must awaken ourselves to some of the huge ongoing challenges which we are bound to face: the new hospital governance for the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, movements of nurses within CSME countries and outside; recruitment and retention of human resources for health and nursing (quality and quantity); appropriate nursing legislative framework (the regulation of nursing is an issue that many countries in the Caribbean are reviewing in an effort to find an appropriate legislative framework); HIV/AIDS and achievement of UN Millennium Development Goals; nursing education in the Caribbean; and many more issues. We can meet these challenges together. That must be our positive attitude.

So as we gather with families and friends this Christmas, give thanks for health and strength. Reflect on the things that make you special, spend time rejuvenating your spirit and begin to channel your support by becoming more actively involved in your professional organization.

Remember nurses that “a smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside” (Dems Waitley, 2004).

A blessed Christmas and a productive New Year to all.

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