HealthThe Stethoscope

Nurses Are Not Your Slaves!

The Freedom Project

CNN is organizing the Freedom Project. The project follows the plight of people in different parts of the world in subhuman conditions resulting from human trafficking and enforced shameful conditions of service such as prostitution. The premise is that no one should be demeaned and treated less than a human being.

This article reports on the plight of some nurses in Nigeria. It draws heavily on real life events.

Nurses at work. Courtesy Daily Post

In the beginning

A young nurse was asked to report at the home of a family in Abuja. The patient was an elderly man with arthritis causing back pain and leg weakness. He had undergone surgery in India which did not help much. The family could not afford to return him to India and so decided on local care with nursing care and physiotherapy.

The nurse

The nurse resumed work and was introduced to the family. This was a 24-hour domiciliary care with the nurse providing 24-hour nursing service at the home of the patient. The Home Care company had negotiated a deal of N300, 000 per month. The nurse was to be paid N100, 000 per month for his services. If you appreciate this, it means the nurse is being paid approximately N3, 300 per day for each 24-hours of work.

So, let’s start from each hour of work.
A room was available in the boys’ quarters, but the patient insisted the nurse was to sleep in the same room. Of course, such that if he needs help the nurse will be close at hand. The family provided a mat for the nurse to sleep on: on the floor.

In the morning, the patient wondered why the nurse did not sweep the room first before attending to him. He felt that this should be done before the nurse gave him a bath. He would not want to step on dirty floor after having his bath. Thereafter of course, make him breakfast, lunch and dinner. The nurse was also to wash his dirty laundry and generally tidy the room.

The last I heard, the nurse was sweeping the compound and tending to the plants in the garden! All of these including the actual nursing care and assistance with the activities of daily living as may be required is paid at N3, 300 per day!

Another case
Did you hear about the nurse who travelled to Ghana by road to look after a patient in the hospice? The patient and family members travelled commercial in first class. Of course, they still expect a high quality of care and professionalism!

Nurses are professionals
The main culprits in the story above are the senior colleagues who farm out young nurses as slaves in homes, offices and hospitals all over the country. If you do not infuse the nurse with pride, decency, self-respect and professionalism, you invite others to trample on their self-esteem and worth. It is time junior nurses and doctors are protected by older colleagues: from being maltreated on the altar of money.

Some patients have been known to offer nurses N1, 000 or even a recharge card as inducement for favors. Many others use the lure of their position in the society, financial muscle or clout to tempt nurses. One of my patients once asked my nurse to come to his house and give him a massage. Oh, he offered her N5, 000!

There are nurses who might find that attractive because of poor pay and poor conditions of service in Nigeria. Pride and integrity are gradually being lost and many enter the profession without a clear sense of their worth. It is activities as described above (a tip of the proverbial iceberg) that leads to sadness, depression and frustration among young nurses. Quite a few nurses are therefore unhappy and remain unfulfilled, in a career with seemingly poor prospects.

Thus, young nurses are desperate to work in hospitals where they can have contact with the rich and famous. They will kiss an ass for the opportunity. Many more are hungry to travel abroad and will kiss a frog for it. What is important though is that nurses are not slaves and should be paid a fair wage. They also deserve to be treated with respect and not exploited by nurse managers, senior nurses, patients and their relatives.
Nurses are not slaves and deserve your respect!
Nurses should stand firm with dignity and respect!
We need nurses who know their worth and give their very best!

NB: This article was published by the BRAIN and SPINE SURGERY CONSORTIUM: an equal opportunity employer. We support the CNN Freedom Project.

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