There are 20 million nurses in the world. Most of the care that’s given anywhere in the world is given by nurses. Nursing is about taking care of a whole person and a whole family. They think about the individual within the context of their life, within the context of their village, within the context of their city, and they understand their behavior and responses related to health and illness within the context of what’s happening in the political system or the sociocultural system.
So you walk in a clinic in Liberia, for example, and you see the that the person in command there is the nurse. They are taking care of young adolescents who are pregnant and they are counseling a mother who just had a baby, and they are taking with a man who does not have a net for malaria. They understand the world through the eyes of the person who is suffering. And therefore, they are able to provide the congruent care, the appropriate healthcare, for them.
The nurses are really making an impact in the world in preventing mortality for babies and for mothers, for preventing HIV/AIDs, in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, in treatment of other infections, and now they are beginning to make an impact in lifestyle changes because lifestyle changes are about the daily lives of people. That means eating right, sleeping right, exercising, and connecting with people, and nurses are at the center of all that.
But beyond that, they reflect the patient’s voices in administration, in policy, and advocating for patients. There are organizations that support nurses’ work and help nurses in making an impact. One of those is PAHO. PAHO’s role and goals are wellbeing and the health of populations in the Americas. They identify health issues, they identify training issues, then identify priorities. They might develop consensus papers, or they might solicit and bring together organizations and universities to work on those issues. They foster partnership, they facilitate opportunities for educators, for researchers from different parts of the Americas to come together at Collaborating Centers. They facilitate collaborative efforts, they facilitate communication, and they encourage faculty exchanges to the exchanges. It is really the way that knowledge is created, practiced, disseminated. What the collaborating centers are helping with is to ensure that the knowledge is culturally competent, and the knowledge could be applied in other cultures, but also to ensure reciprocity. It’s not one way it’s going from north to south and south to north. An organization such as PAHO is really important as an investment in the education of nurses and the education of health.
The Power of Nurses – Afaf Meleis
Pan American Network of Nursing and Midwifery Collaborating Centers