Monday, 8 July 2019

PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH FROM 19TH CONFERENCE - KADUNA, 2019


AN ADDRESS BY CHIEF (HON) SOLOMON E.O. EGWUENU, THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY GRADUATES OF NURSING SCIENCES ASSOCIATION (UGONSA) ON THE EVENT OF 19TH UGONSA NATIONAL PROFESSIONAL CONFERENCE & SCIENTIFIC UPDATE HOLDING AT KADUNA, KADUNA STATE FROM SUNDAY 7TH TO SATURDAY 13TH JULY, 2019



I wish to most heartily welcome and congratulate all of you for making out time from your very tight schedule to attend this crucial and memorable conference. Nursing as a profession or vocation is as old as human history. Its central and predominant contribution in the health care industry is incontestable and its global recognition and marketability is heartwarming. However this profession is faced with some incapacitating political and socio-economic problems in Nigeria that tend to stagnate and inhibit its professional growth, development and rewardability in contrast with the same nursing profession in the Western world and developed countries.  A gathering like the event of this National Professional Conference & Scientific Update provides opportunity for appraisal of our situations and modalities for improvement as we believe that with consistent, focused and methodical effort, we shall in no distant time take the nursing profession in Nigeria to the enviable height it has attained in the developed countries.

The UGONSA National Professional Conference and Scientific Update is a classic event where scholars, researchers and administrators in the nursing profession gather to exhibit and review scientific works and underlying theories of nursing practice for the purpose of improving on medico-nursing knowledge and skills for enhanced qualitative client care. As the conference provides another veritable opportunity for us to sieve out vital ingredients for repositioning nursing services more efficiently for care effective and cost effective service delivery, it also provides the opportunity for us to look into factors that might have been diffusely or actively constituting impediments to our unalloyed zest towards elaborating the best of what we can offer as nurses to the services of our clients. Among such factors is the issue of lack of proper placement and poor remuneration of nurses. 

The current professional conference was tagged “PROPER PLACEMENT SUMMIT” because it shall be used to champion the course for proper placement of Graduates of Bachelor of Nursing Science (B.N.Sc) degree at par with their counterparts in other core healthcare disciplines. The Nigerian health system has been provocatively treating the profession of nursing as subservient to other core healthcare disciplines through its deliberate, unfair and inequitable placement of graduates of B.N.Sc degree below their par in the Civil Service. The Industrial Arbitration Panel award, 1981 was unambiguous in its declaration that the profession of nursing is on parity with that of Pharmacy in Nigeria, as is the case in Great Britain. What that simply means is that graduates of first degree of the profession of Pharmacy and those of nursing should be placed on the same entry point into the Civil Service. However, the ugly situation we witness as at date is the aberration of subjugating fresh graduates of B.N.Sc degree to CONHESS 07 (.i.e. Grade Level 08) during internship and to CONHESS 08 (.i.e. Grade Level 09) post-NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) whereas their counterparts from other core healthcare disciplines (such are Pharmacy, Med Lab, Physiotherapy, etc) are placed on CONHESS 08 for internship and CONHESS 09 (.i.e. Grade Level 10) post-NYSC. The reason for keeping graduates of B.N.Sc degree on one Grade Level below their par (who they share similar entry requirement and course duration with for the first degree in the university) has never been explained by anybody till date, perhaps because there is no reason other than a seemingly sinister plot to make nurses remain at the bottom of the food chain in our healthcare system. 

If we accept that injustice permeates where equal things are treated as unequal, it portends that our Health System is a citadel of injustice for treating equal things as unequal vis-à-vis under-placement of graduates of B.N.Sc degree below their par. What is more? This ill treatment meted out against nurses psychologically traumatizes them perennially and adversely impacts their zeal for going the extra mile in service delivery. Such must not be allowed to continue. Because the care of mankind has been entrusted unto nurses, they must be motivated and not traumatized to carry out this task effectively and efficiently.

Nurses are to the healthcare system what mothers are to families. Any family in which the mother is empowered is eternally progressive but families where mothers are subjugated and trampled upon (as done to nurses in the Nigeria health system) never make any inch of progress. This explains why Nigeria health system is almost the ‘first from behind’ in the ranking of the world’s performing and responsive health systems. Proper placement will motivate nurses and oil their latitude to meeting the increasing complexity of health needs, which nurses are in the frontline to drive. I dare say that medical tourism by government officials and affluent Nigerians to other countries shall surely abate with adequate motivation of nurses through proper placement and enhanced remuneration. This is because with a motivated nursing workforce, we stand to get in Nigeria hospitals what is obtainable in high-ranking hospitals in other countries.

I therefore humbly call on our distinguished dignitaries, other well meaning Nigerians and the media to prevail on the powers-that-be to give nurses their due and eligible right of placement at par with their counterparts in other core healthcare professions. Keeping quiet in the face of injustice is not golden. Silence in such a situation portrays acceptance of the injustice and, at worst, complicity in perpetuating it. We count on your voice to put pressure on the Nigerian government to do the right thing on the placement of the graduates of B.N.Sc degree by making their entry point for internship and into the Civil Service post-NYSC to be at par with that of other core healthcare professionals as granted by the IAP award, 1981.

To my fellow Graduate Nurses, although the challenges facing nursing in Nigeria is enormous, they are however not insurmountable. We must brace up to the challenges and tenaciously fight to uproot all obstacles standing on our way to professional growth, development and self actualization. In this crucial conference we shall be brainstorming to take a proactive and collective stand on other issues and policies that bring about desirable changes in nursing profession especially reformation and amendment of the establishment Act of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria; upgrade or affiliation of  schools of nursing and midwifery to degree awarding institutions; creation of a substantive directorate of Nursing Services at the Federal Ministry of Health and curtailing the menace of quackery in nursing.

The profession is looking up to us as vectors for productive and positive change and we cannot afford to betray this expectation. The reason for this expectation is not far-fetched; we are products of university-based education and hold professional degrees like our contemporaries in Medicine and pharmacy. This advantage removes the inadequacies of inferiority complex with its associated easy capitulation to inter-professional intimidation by other graduate professionals in the health care industry. The graduates of nursing sciences are also polyvalent graduates adequately versed in clinical sciences, behavioural, social and management sciences that make them unique among the core healthcare professionals.

In this conference, I implore you all to be very committed and professionally patriotic so as to chart a new course for our great and noble profession. We must remain strong and united so as to frustrate our detractors who do not want to see the growth, development and advancement of the nursing profession. We must tirelessly work to gain professional autonomy in Nigeria and take nursing to the acceptable and desirable global standard. We must prove a point that Nursing is the centrifuge and engine room of the health care industry. We must show the world that we are the dominant force in the health care sector. We must take our place of prominence and pride in the health care industry and we must reap the fruits of our professional labour here on earth and thereafter in heaven.

On this note, I appreciate the privilege to welcome you all to the Centre of Learning, Kaduna State, and as we deliberate on professional issues in nursing, I enjoin nurses, members of other healthcare professions, the government, the media and all people of good-will, to join hands and help us bring about a repositioned and more responsive nursing profession in Nigeria as nursing remains that great pot that cooks good health for all of us.

God bless you!

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