Wed | May 27, 2020

Nurses and midwives lauded on World Health Day

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:08 AM
Debbie-Ann Reid, enrolled assistant nurse at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital, smiles for the camera.
Debbie-Ann Reid, enrolled assistant nurse at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital, smiles for the camera.

One has to have a special kind of love for people and the desire to see them healthy in order to work in the health sector.

Yesterday was observed as World Health Day and the work of nurses and midwives was celebrated.

These unsung heroes often go about their jobs receiving little in terms of pay and compensation, face verbal abuse daily, and ingratitude from the same people they are often trying to help. Yet, they go to work in hospitals and health centres, with quick thinking and in some cases limited resources, and they get the job done.

Now, with the coronavirus spreading rapidly across the globe, they are on the front lines, risking their own health and lives to care for persons who have contracted the deadly virus.

One nurse shared with The Gleaner her experience since the coronavirus outbreak, stating that at first, it was challenging knowing that she had to go to work while others stayed home.

“Initially, the idea of working while everyone else stayed home was daunting, but as the time progressed and the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) were acquired, I felt more comfortable. Same goes for majority of my other colleagues,” said Debbie-Ann Reid, enrolled assistant nurse at St Ann’s Bay Hospital.

Reid said nurses are now volunteering to work in the isolation areas and are not shying away from the challenge and potential danger. Notwithstanding this, since the coronavirus outbreak, nurses and other healthcare workers have been stigmatised by members of the public.

“Many of my colleagues from the Brown’s Town area have had to wear mufti (street clothes) to work and change after arriving just to be carried on public transport,” said Reid. “I’ve also received a few scathing looks at businessplaces while in uniform,” she disclosed.


Reid explained that she usually ignores the looks as she is aware that they come from a place of ignorance.

Even so, with renewed vigour each day she returns to work, along with her colleagues, ready to assist and aid in healing.

The lack of proper compensation is still an issue in the health sector, and it is one of the reasons that many nurses and healthcare workers cite for leaving Jamaica to what they believe is greener pastures. When asked why she has stayed over the years, watching so many of her colleagues leave, Reid said, “I think if we all leave, we would leave our own country to suffer. There have to be a few who stay behind and help to build and make a difference, especially with the current situation with COVID-19.”

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with the International Council of Nurses and Nursing Now, reveals that today, there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide. Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million – with the greatest gaps found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as some parts of Latin America.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization director general said, “Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the front line in the battle against COVID-19. This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wake-up call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.”