In Kenya, where I live and work in strengthening health and human resources for health systems, the nurse is renown as the symbol of health services and the mainstay of the health system. Nurses on the front line provide critical health services, that the public depends on.
As the largest cadre in most health care settings, the nurse is the most conspicuous health care provider and a major contributor to the health outcomes in any country.
The broad training a nurse undergoes in college incorporates nursing care, sociology, anthropology, psychology, basic economics, law and society, basic statistics, research, management, administration, and health systems. As a trained nurse, I can attest that this training produces nurses who are well-rounded health leaders and critical pillars of the health system.
In leadership roles, nursing training and practice prepares the nurse to deal with people with a holistic approach: dissecting and accommodating the challenges individuals face or the life situation they are in that motivate their behavior. Whether it is a patient with a preventable disease, or a coworker charged with work-related misconduct, the nurse’s training and instinct is to understand the circumstances that lead to the issue without looking at the individual as causing the problem.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in honor of the 200th birth anniversary of the founder of nursing, Florence Nightingale. The campaign focuses on the value of nurses and demonstrates how nurse leaders are central to addressing a wide range of health challenges and achieving universal health coverage.
Nurses understand how a person’s environment impacts their behavior, and that management styles should reflect this understanding. In their daily activities, nurses exhibit important qualities of a good leader: integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, vision, influence, and positivity.
This year, advocacy to entrench nurses in more leadership roles is more urgent than ever. In line with “Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take?” a 2019 report produced by Nursing Now, IntraHealth International, and Johnson and Johnson, nurses must be embraced in all spheres of leadership in the health sector. The constraints and barriers to nurse leadership require a concerted effort to eradicate, in order to elevate the profile of nurses.
*Photo Credit: IntraHealth International
Mathew Thuku is a nurse and a Senior Program Manager at IntraHealth International.