Florence Nightingale in #QuakeNepal part 2: how nurses can lead the way


April 29th, 2015 writing from Bhairawaha.

One of my recent blogs was to ask all my nurse-friends “What would Florence Nightingale do?” and it got a lot of positive hits.

The bottom line of that blog was simple:

don’t wait for the authorities to ask you to help. You don’t need “permission” from your seniors – they are too busy to think of ways to ask.  For some reason in Nepal health care, the “seniors” are most often male and it simply does not occur to them that the nurses, (who are female), are an important part of the system.  This is not “fair” but I think it’s the truth. We need to invest in training nurses and giving them responsibility to match their potential. That will be the subject of future blogs.

It’s time to step up and take some initiative if you have not already done so.  My idea from the other day was to put on your nurse’s uniform, or your nursing school uniform, and adopt one of the open places where people are sleeping under the sky. Go there and set up a health clinic where you can educate about sanitation; give health checkups to people with chronic illness, and screen people to see who might need to see a doctor. These are things you can do. Anybody who tries to stop you, is crazy.

From this distance the news is how crowded the hospitals are in Kathmandu. When there is fear, everybody thinks of a hospital as a safe place, and there they go. The emergencies can get crowded with people who need reassurance for minor illness, and they get in the way of the ones who are critically ill.

In USA I’ve been through other disasters (though none of this magnitude). Here is another reason to position nurses in the community. If you can station nurses in these places, they will help some of the people to get treatment without the need to go to the hospital. Nurses in makeshift clinics can assist in unclogging the emergency rooms so that people who are going there for minor treatment are not in line with the more seriously injured people.

I think the government needs to organize this, but – they are also organizing a lot of things such as pit toilets, drinking water, teams to go to Langtang, getting people out of the Valley, and that sort of thing.  So don’t wait for them – get started. You can step up to the wicket and score for the team!

About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

Experienced nursing educator and problem-solver. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background. Add it with fifteen more devoted to adult critical care. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. I travel outside of Kathmandu Valley as well. When the recent violence happened, I knew the cities - I had trained people in those locations. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011. Global Health Nursing is not all sweetness and light; not solely milk & honey and happy moms and babies.
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