Around the world, you read, hear and see industrial action by all professions. This is because of different issues, most of the times it is about staff welfare. Nurses are not an exemption and have had them from time to time across the globe. Most of the industrial actions bear fruits while most end up with false promises which are never realized. In Kenya, you have the famous “return to work formula” as a structure of how issues will be handled, but they remain in paper. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our healthcare system and gave a rise to agitation for better staff welfare. Welfare means well-being and you will through this article look at different aspects of welfare.
Proper working conditions is one important factor in the staff welfare. The nurse expects to have tools needed to carry out their duties. You have read reports from most parts of the globe of complaints of availability of personal protective equipment. This is an irreducible minimum to governments and private run hospitals. Enough staffing and flexible shifts should be ensured so that the nurse is protected from burnout. Burnout reduces the nurses work output. Leave from work and during an emergency is important, as the nurse should have a life out of hospital. This period allows for rejuvenation of the energy levels improving quality of work by the nurse. Some nurses forfeit their leave to work and earn extra coins, as much as they are entitled to this, break is very important. Job security should be provided for the nurses. Psychological and mental health support is important. The services should be available to the nurse at all times.
A comprehensive health and life insurance is an important aspect of staff welfare. Some nurses work in hospitals that they cannot afford to seek health services from. You offer services you cannot afford, the irony of life. Most countries do not have comprehensive public health insurance policy giving room for expensive private companies. The governments and private proprietors should provide comprehensive health and life insurance to nurses. Some nurses do not seek health services because they cannot afford and end up having medical complications. The pandemic has made this clear as we are losing nurses for the simple reason that they could not seek healthcare services in time.
The nurse should have an opportunity of continued education. Professional growth is an ingredient for a better nurse with better skills. The profession is dynamic with new information every day, you need to keep up. The hospital is supposed to provide continuous medical education from time to time. Where possible nurses should get scholarships to go for specialized training. Many hospitals have programs whereby after the training the nurse is supposed to work for a specified time before they can leave. If you get these opportunities grab them. Where scholarships are not available the nurse should be allowed to go for a self-sponsored training. This should be guided by the institution’s policy. The space for staff professional development should be provided for all nurses.
To the elephant in the room, remuneration. Salaries are important aspect in the welfare for nurses. Nurses in Africa, Asia and South Americas are poorly paid as compared with their colleagues in North America and Europe. This has led to the famous nurse migration to the two regions from all over the world. In the former, nurses are not remunerated based on their work but by some cultural injustice. Job evaluation should be done and remuneration pegged on that. This does not mean that in North America and Europe it is a bed of roses, recently nurses in the NHS (UK) were agitating for pay rise. The governments should move with speed to do job evaluation and pay nurses commensurate to their duties. An example of disparities, in Kenya a doctor is paid 6 times risk allowance as a nurse who works in the same environment.
Nurses’ welfare should be viewed in a more comprehensive way. Most of the time the salary is given priority and rightly so, however the rest are important. The wide perceptive gives more power to the nurse and thus increases motivation and productivity. The unions and associations leadership have failed the members during negotiation, this is another topic that will need a whole blog post. Staff welfare goes beyond salaries.