World Health Day 2020: Supporting nurses, midwives

April 9, 2020

Nurse Bolanle works as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse Specialist with additional training and expertise in critical care nursing. She has studied and worked hard over the years to develop skills that enable her to monitor and provide high quality nursing care for patients who are critically ill and are in the ICU.

She is savvy with the high-end monitoring gadgets and sophisticated equipment and codes for various emergency situations. She takes great satisfaction from nursing very ill patients slowly but surely back to full recovery.

Nurse Zainab specialised in Psychiatric Nursing and works in a specialist Neuropsychiatric Hospital. She loves engaging the patients as they settle on the ward, sharing their hopes and aspirations as well as regrets. It gives her the greatest fulfilment to see them build their lives back, re-unite with their families and get their studies or careers back on track.

She enjoys encouraging them with stories of different patients she had interacted with over the years, who are now doing very well. Her greatest weapon was to simply listen to them, stay respectful and to offer them hope.

Nurse Chinonye works in primary health care (PHC) facility in a rural community. She trained as a midwife but she is the only Nursing staff in the PHC. She is however, supported by two community health officers (CHOs) and five community health extension workers (CHEWs). They have organised a roster and they run efficient antenatal clinics, take safe deliveries, organise immunisations and provide general community health services. She is especially proud of the decline in the rate of deaths occurring during pregnancy, since their PHC clinic was opened and the community started utilising their services.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the 7th April every year as World Health Day (WHD). It allows the WHO to choose a theme for the given year which every country can pay attention to, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for improving services in that area. In 2020, the theme for the World Health Day is “Support Nurses and Midwives”.

Nurses and midwives account for about 70 per cent of the world’s health workforce with the majority of them being female. They spend the most time with the patients, especially those on admission on the wards. Their expertise ranges from basic nursing duties such as regular monitoring of temperature recordings, blood pressure measurements and so on; while also serving medicines as at when due.

In very ill patients who cannot get out of bed, they may need to provide a bed bath, or clean and dress wounds on a daily basis They also carry out complex procedures such as assisting with surgeries, performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and so on. At the primary care level, they often serve as head of facility and organise the planning and delivery of comprehensive community medical services.

In caring intimately for the patients on admission over a period of time, they frequently cultivate a strong relationship with the patients, and their families who gradually learn to trust and seek their wise counsel for their concerns. They are undoubtedly, the strongest partners of medical doctors in the care of patients. But regrettably they are frequently underestimated and often unappreciated. It is also not as glamorous as it used to be in the past.

But the current coronavirus pandemic brings to the fore, the need for us all to appreciate and celebrate all our frontline health care workers – with nurses and midwives as important players on that field. The risk of exposure and the sacrifices all health workers make, to show up every day, to deploy their skills for the benefit of sick patients is certainly worthy of commendation.

It is unfortunate that the number of nurses required to efficiently run good quality health care services is usually unmet – due to low priorities for employment at Local Government, State as well as Federal Levels. A situation where only two Nurses are on duty at any given shift period, in some facilities; but are expected to efficiently oversee and provide nursing care to 40 to 50 patients on a ward, is simply a recipe for disaster.


Nurses and midwives deserve our appreciation and commendation for their hard work and commitment to patient care that often exemplifies their day to day activities. All front-line health workers deserve special commendation with the difficulties of working in less than optimal circumstances; especially in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government at all levels, starting from the Local Government Levels, the State Levels through the State Primary Health Care Boards, and the Federal Health Facilities need to prioritise the recruitment, training and retention of all cadres of health workers.


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