Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Nurses are more than white uniforms

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:14 AMSheryl Garriques-Lloyd/Contributor

THE YEAR 2020 has been designated the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Assembly. Can you imagine the joy we felt, and are feeling, to have a year specially dedicated to us? We started the year in high spirits. There were launches for activities all over the world.

Governments were encouraged and embraced the ‘Nightingale Challenge’. The International Council of Nurses, the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Nurses Associations presented grand plans to celebrate us nurses.

However, in true biblical fashion, this year has not just been a year of highlighting nurses and nursing, but a true demonstration of nurses and nursing being the backbone of healthcare. I am 100 per cent sure that at the beginning of the year when we embraced being acknowledged and appreciated,we did not envision COVID-19 highlighting our right to be in the ‘Super Heroes Hall of Fame’.

This right is not just due to COVID-19; the WHO (2020) reminds us that “nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services. They are often the first and only point of care in their communities”.

So as we appreciate and celebrate nurses this year, the question is, do you really know us, other than those of us in white or brown uniforms? Do you know the different levels in nursing? Can you identify the nurses based on the colour of their belts or the colour of the pins they wear? Can you tell the departments in which we work by the colour of our uniforms? Did you know we no longer use the nomenclature ‘matron’? What about those of us that no longer work in health institutions and do not wear identifiable uniforms or no uniforms at all? Can you identify our nursing students by their uniforms and their schools? If you answered no to any of the questions, or even if you did know an answer or two, join us on a journey of public education on nursing in Jamaica.

Let us start with a little bit of history. Known as the Florence Nightingale of Jamaica, our most famous nurse Mary Seacole set the trend for nursing and nurses from our little island by being undaunted in her drive to provide care to those who needed it.

Between the 18th and 21 centuries, nursing education has moved from untrained persons to formal training, the highest being at the university level. We have progressed from offering only general nursing training to an array of nursing specialities. Twelve nurses who kept the fight going for nurses’ registration, reciprocity and recognition in Jamaica founded the Jamaica General Trained Nurses Association in July 1946. Twenty years later, in 1966, the name was changed to the Nurses Association of Jamaica, and they remain the official professional body of registered nurses here. Legislatively, the Nursing Council of Jamaica was established in 1952 to regulate the education, training and practice of nurses, midwives and assistant nurses in Jamaica.

Let us get back to this year, 2020, which has brought the spotlight directly on nurses, nursing, nursing bodies and nursing organisations. The spotlight has brought to the fore not only the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the nurses in their everyday roles, but also our creativity, ingenuity and diverse roles and responsibilities. Follow the 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife campaigns, both locally and internationally via social media, and you will see just what we are talking about. As we continue to shine locally, regionally and internationally, we have expanded our horizons to include other nursing organisations founded by nurses for nurses, focusing on nurses and nursing excellence.

One such organisation is the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, founded in the United States but now spanning over 100 countries with over 500 chapters. We proudly introduce the Omega Kappa Chapter of Sigma, the first Caribbean chapter (May 2019) located here in Jamaica at The UWI School of Nursing, Mona. Our membership extends an invitation to everyone and encourage participation as we embark on this public education journey. Get to know us, white is not our only colour.

Sheryl Garriques-Lloyd is a nurse educator and president of Omega Kappa Chapter of Sigma.