Zimbabwe: Nurses Under Pressure
Zimbabwean nurses face difficult decisions in their day-to-day work. Health Services are now client centred and are being provided by a workforce, which is performance driven. The problems faced by the nursing profession include: A shortage of nurses means that at present all our new nurse graduates are bonded for 3 years, but experienced nurses continue to be lost to neighbouring countries and abroad. Hospital wards are still run with only one or two nurse per shift for a 40-bedded ward with the result that nurses continue to be overworked. Lack of transport has become a critical issue and poses a risk to nurses’ lives when arriving or knocking off duty given the shift work. Lack of accommodation at institutions is making retention of nurses very difficult since in some areas, rented accommodation is not available. Nurses have been pushed out of the traditional nurse’s residences. Inadequate and erratic supplies of drugs, surgical sundries and equipment including protective clothing like gloves are exposing nurses to HIV infection. Burnout syndrome is widespread with nurses overwhelmed with the stress of nursing a full ward of very ill patients with so little support. Unlike other health workers who are visitors to the ward, nurses spend long hours with patients. This requires ways of dealing with burnout so that nurses continue to provide quality health care services.Upholding of nursing ethics is critical building a positive image as desired by the communities that we serve. As a professional association, ZINA aspires to ensure that the services nurses provide in support of public protection and health care are exemplary and community driven. Given these challenges, Nurses associations such as ZINA have to continue advocating for improved conditions of nurses, and to explore nurse exchange programmes with the countries our nurses are migrating to. Incentives like, reduced taxation for nurses should be considered. It is important to look at ways to access affordable vehicles to nurses through car loan schemes for nurses like it has always done for Doctors. This becomes even more critical with the advent of homebased care. In the same way nurses have to continue to pursue access to affordable and maintained accommodation. There is urgent need to have tap water, electricity and telephones at rural health centers and local authorities to enable nurses to build their own houses. Natpharm operations should be enhanced so that they begin to supply health facilities with drugs since their prices are way below private pharmacies. Nurses in private practice should be allowed to prescribe drugs for patients under their care as per EDLIZ instructions. There is need to consider reducing working hours for nurses in-order to reduce stress that is causing burn out syndrome. There is need to conduct healing sessions and support groups for nurses suffering from burn out syndrome. ZINA has taken up the Ethics Agenda. We have produced the Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses and we hope the Nurses Council will take this up. to monitor ethical conduct by our nurses.