Min. of State with responsibility for Health, Hon. Wendy Phipps

 

By Hon Wendy C. Phipps

Minister with Responsibility for Health, Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs

Monday, May 9, 2016 

Fellow Citizens & Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:

The period May 9-14, 2016 has been set aside this year to acknowledge, document and promote the impact of the nursing profession on the health and well-being of the people of our Federation.  This year, Nurses’ Week is being staged under the theme “Nurses: A Force for Change; Improving Health Systems’ Resilience”.

Our Government considers this year’s theme for Nurses’ Weekto be an excellent choice of focus, especially given the facts that (1) our nurses continue to play a pivotal role in the provision of primary health care to our citizens and residents; and (2) like any other profession of nobility, nursing must constantly be assessed, improved, and strengthened in order to safeguard the gains attained in health maintenance.  Coupled with these objectives are the imperatives of setting new targets, steadily improving on health care delivery, and pursuing professional development opportunities in order to remain relevant in the field of nursing as a career.

The majority of nurses in the Federation are either employed in institutional-based or community-based settings.  This simply means that their practice is either in an institution or hospital setting, or in a public health centre. The local nursing fraternity also includes a small percentage of nurses in private practice within nursing homes or residential settings where private clients are being served.At present, there is a total of 324nurses gainfully employed in the public sector of St. Kitts and Nevis.  These career postings are broken down as follows:

St. Kitts:

Institutional Based Health Services = 213

Community Based Health Services = 64

Nevis

Institutional Based Health Services = 38

Community Based Health Services = 9

Regardless of the nature of the employment, all nurses are expected to provide top quality care, relief, advice and comfort to all who are in need – as a result of illness, pain, disability, advanced age, or other condition that would prevent that individual from being able to practice self-care.  For the scores of nurses who take this charge seriously, the Federation salutes you at this special time. Your self-giving contribution to our Nation’s wellness is greatly appreciated.

As our health care professionals – nurses in particular – reflect on the goals of Nurses’ Week 2016, it would be wise for us to ‘go back to basics’.  By this, I mean, that it is important for everyone who has chosen nursing as a career to periodically revisit the choice that was made to enter the profession.  Important questions to consider are, for example:

  1. Why did I become a nurse?
  2. Do I still have what it takes for me to function effectively as a nurse?
  3. What are the things that I would do differently in my career if I had the time, money, and other resources to do so?
  4. How do patients/ clients / the public think of me as a nurse?
  5. What do I think of my nursing colleagues? Are we really a force for change? Or, are we instead just going through the motions until retirement?
  6. How would I truly define my work ethic as a nurse? Is it a good work ethic? Or, is it woefully inadequate to the demands of the profession?For example: Do I have a habit of being late for work? Do I abuse sick leave allowances that are provided by law? Do I steal supplies on the job for my personal use? Is my appearance neat and tidy from head to toe?
  7. What do I think is the true picture of the nursing profession in St. Kitts and Nevis?

Every one of these questions calls for serious self-examination, honest reflection, and clarity of thought and conscience in coming up with solid answers.  Yet, it is an exercise that is worthwhile and meaningful, and can be just as easily applied across a multiplicity of career paths other than nursing, by a simple substitution of the career field.  The end goal of such self-scrutiny should either be a resolve to improve, a re-commitment to the nursing career, or a decision to consider whether the way forward means that a career shift is warranted.

There are those who may wonder: “Why would the Minister of Health want nurses to consider these piercing questions, especially now during Nurses’ Week?”   My response is two-fold: (1) this is perhaps one of the best times to do so, given that the organisers of this year’s week of activities have deliberately chosen a theme that focuses on the promotion of nursing as a force for positive change; and (2) while the majority of nurses in St. Kitts and Nevis take their jobs seriously, there are some nurses who have, over time, sullied the reputation of the profession.   To be brutally honest, over time, the traditionally high regard of a nursing career has been called into question by some persons who access our health care systems and institutions and have found them wanting.  Some of the criticisms are well-placed, coming from family members and patients, fellow nurses and doctors, and even private sector partners. These complaints run the gamut of concerns and observations, including the following:

  • Some of these nurses are rude, insulting and lazy, and don’t know how to speak to people.
  • Some of these nurses act as if they are granting people a favour, forgetting that we are in hospital and are paying for their services.
  • Some young nurses don’t seem to view nursing as a calling: for them, nursing is just a job. They are nothing like those older nurses from long ago, who really took a genuine interest in people – because back then, nursing was a vocation that was taken seriously.
  • When hospitalized patients press the buzzer for help, some nurses think it hard to respond, often leaving the patient unattended until the next shift comes on.
  • Some of our younger nurses are not confidential: they take patients’ business out into the street.

All of these complaints and observations have been documented by the management of our hospitals, our health centres, and our Ministries of Health in the Federation.  Moreover, they have been consistently addressed in countless in-service training sessions, and in one-on-one consultations between senior management and some of the offenders.  Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that when some of these experiences and observations are reported there is a reluctance to go on the record and clearly document the incidents.   Without a formal complaint, it becomes difficult to takeappropriate and corrective action. Yet, regardless of the level of documentation given when complaints are registered about the standard of nursing care in the Nation, it is incumbent on every single nurse in St. Kitts and Nevis to render service to the best of his or her ability – regardless of the socio-economic status of the patient or client in question.  To do less than that, would be tantamount to setting a very bad example to younger nurses and persons who are considering a career in nursing.  Our Federation’s next generation of nurses therefore needs excellent role models if we are to maintain the legacy left by scores of senior nurses who have rendered yeoman service to our Country in careers that span anywhere from 40-50 years and beyond.

A number of activities have been earmarked to celebrate Nurses’ Week 2016, for which the Ministry of Health seeks the public’s full support wherever possible. The schedule of activities include the following:

Monday, May 9th          –        Combined panel discussion for nurses, teachers and the police re: Crime and Its Impact on the Nursing Profession – to be held in St. Kitts;

  • Candlelight vigil on the grounds of Alexandra Hospital in Nevis at 6:30 p.m. 

Tuesday, May 10th –    Sessions on Future Planning re: Sagicor Life Insurance; Cleanliness; and Math Made Easy, at JNF Hospital;

  • Promotional programmes on Nursing as a career, in the schools on Nevis 

Thursday, May 12th –   Nurses’ Symposium, Luncheon & Award Ceremony at JNF Hospital;

  • Candlelight Service at Cayon Seventh Day Adventist Church, starting at 6:30 p.m.
  • Church service at Cross Roads Church in Nevis, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, May 13th –         Round Table Discussion with Prime Minister, Dr the Hon Timothy Harris; Hon Eugene Hamilton and Hon Wendy C. Phipps, Ministers of Health; and Andrew Skerritt, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health; and

  • T-Shirt Day in Nevis

It should be noted that in addition to the foregoing events, the Nevis branch of the St. Kitts and Nevis Nurses’ Association will be hosting Morning Devotion on Von Radio from May 9-13, 2016.

The Federal Cabinet wishes all nurses in the Federation a most productive and rewarding celebration of Nurses’ Week 2016.  It is the Government’s wish that (a) the nursing professioncontinues to grow from strength to strength;(b) the cadre of nurses serving our people operate in a mature, professional, impartial, caring and compassionate manner; and (c) every effort is made to promote nursing as a positive career path in order to recruit and train a new generation of young persons who will take seriously the nobility of a nursing career.That being said, I am therefore delighted to officially declare Nurses’ Week 2016 official open.

May God continue to grace the people of St. Kitts and Nevis with good health, and wellness of mind, body and spirit.