Nursing is a calling

WE commend health authorities in Lukulu district, Western Province, for acting promptly and firmly to suspend a nurse who allegedly refused to attend to a pregnant woman who ended up giving birth on the roadside.
Such barbaric behaviour cannot be tolerated even in the slightest terms. It has no place in the medical profession and society at large.
We are deeply saddened by the conduct of the nurse, identified as Chimalizeni Tembo, who allegedly refused to stop watching television to attend to the pregnant woman, who failed to reach the health centre because of labour pains.
Public Service Management Division Permanent Secretary Boniface Chimbwali, who happened to be at the scene where the delivery of the baby took place, confirmed the development.
“I am on tour of duty here (Western Province), and on Friday around 22:00 hours, we were stopped by a man whose wife was in labour.
“The distance between the health facility and where the couple was, was just about two to three minutes’ walk.
“Luckily, there was a medical doctor in our entourage who helped the woman to deliver. In fact there was a complication because the baby was breech [a condition when the baby is positioned head up],” Mr Chimbwali said.
After delivery, the baby and the mother were rushed to Lukulu District Hospital for attention, but sadly the baby died an hour later.
If truly the nurse in question refused to go and attend to the woman in labour because he was watching television, then the man is not fit to be in the nursing profession. How can a nurse who is called to the profession of saving life act with such cruelty or negligence?
We know that there have been many complaints by members of the public on the attitude of some nurses. In some instances, we have heard about nurses being beaten by relatives of patients for exhibiting an “I don’t care” attitude at critical moments when their attention was desperately required.
While it is known that there are nurses doing a commendable job out there, it is also true that there are some bad eggs tarnishing the image of the profession.
It is not a secret that due to unemployment challenges, the nursing profession has attracted a lot of job seekers as opposed to those with a calling in the profession.
Many people have joined nursing as a means of earning a living, and not necessarily to save lives. This is why today we have a lot of nurses who have no compassion for the sick. To them the sick are a burden.
Sadly, some nurses do not even seem to understand the seriousness of their job, and that their action or inaction could mean the difference between life and death.
As a country, we certainly do not need nurses who are going to contribute to deaths as opposed to saving lives. Though the ultimate power to save life is in the hands of God, nurses are all expected to do what is humanly possible and acceptable within their profession to save lives.
While we sympathise with the fact that there is a shortage of manpower in rural health centres, it is not justifiable to allow life to be lost even in instances where help can be availed.
We agree with sentiments of the Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation (ZUNO) that pregnant women should attend antenatal clinic and rush to the hospital in good time when due. This should, however, not be justification for nurses to act negligently.
When faced with an emergency, as was the case in Lukulu, the first priority should be to save life. At such a time, we do not expect nurses to preoccupy themselves with why the pregnant woman did not get to hospital on time.
We also want to believe that nurses understand better than anybody else that women have different experiences when it comes to labour. It may not be deliberate that one goes to the hospital late.
For the sake of justice, the case in Lukulu must be investigated to its logical conclusion. If proved that the nurse refused to attend to the woman in labour because he was watching television, then he does not belong to the nursing profession.
The man can be helped to go and find his right fit in other professions by handing him a dismissal letter. This way sanity will be restored in the nursing profession because negligent conduct would be deterred.
Above all, nursing is not for all but for those with a calling.