Being back on a real medical/surgical ward gave us a new perspective on how nursing here compares with nursing back home. After talking with the nurses on the ward and finding out how their job compares to ours, it's no wonder not many people are inspired to become nurses here. For most of us in the nursing program, and definitely for both of us, connecting with patients and getting to know them in order to provide the best care possible was the motivating force that brought us to nursing. The same is true for the Zambian nurses we spoke to, but the reality of what we can do in practice is very different. Even as students we have both been thanked by patients and their families for taking care of them, and the wards in our hospitals are constantly getting thank-you cards and boxes of timbits from appreciating families. Here is very different. I have yet to witness a patient thanking a nurse for her care, and that is probably because the nurses have no time to build a connection with any patients, no matter how much they want to. On the Male Ward, there are two nurses in the morning for over forty patients. In the afternoon, that drops down to one nurse. One person, to look after 40. No wonder no one gets any one on one time. There's no daily assessments, no vitals done for every patient, non of the stuff that usually keeps us running while on shift, but the Zambian nurses are just as busy. And they get non of the thanks that we get. While in Canada nurses are among the top 10 most trusted professional (according to a very official poll from Readers Digest), nurses here is Zambia are very undervalued. They receive almost no recognition for their work, and one nurse on the ward told us that a Zambian government official once publicly expressed nurses are no better than the completely untrained cleaning staff. I wish there was a sliver lining here, that the nurses were at least paid well for their hard work, but that's not the case either. They are paid monthly, and do not get compensated for overtime hours. They make a fraction of what a nurse makes in Canada. When we go home to work, we are almost guaranteed to be making enough for a comfortable life.
But the purpose of this blog is not to say how much better nursing in Canada is, or to rant about how terrible it must be to work here in Zambia. It's to highlight that these nurses aren't working for money, or recognition or thanks, their doing it because they still care about their patients. They still want to make those connections, and they try everyday for that to happen. We want to take that incredibly motivating spirit and work ethic back home with us, and do our best to exemplify it. When ever we have a hard shift, or are questioning whether we made the right choice with nursing, we can remember how strong the Zambian nurses are against all odds and know that we can be too. If they can still see nursing for the reason they started, than so can we. Caring is the backbone of nursing, and these nurses showed that.