14th of May 2015, Nasiru Ahmed a 45yr old diabetic was admitted into a private hospital after symptoms of hyperglycemia. He was subsequently placed on insulin. However, something happened after a few days. Nasiru started shaking and sweating profusely. He appeared disoriented and confused. The 'nurse' on duty assured him that he would be ok. But his condition worsened. There was no doctor immediately available. The 'nurse', apparently confused decided to administer more insulin. Mr Nasiru entered into a coma, from which he did not recover.
Another news sufficed sometime ago on the internet, about a 'nurse' who chopped off a baby's joystick in the name of circumcision.
Sad stories like these have continued to emerge from our private hospitals, both in the rural and urban areas. Nobody seems to take note, until they are personally affected. There is an adage that if you see a fowl scattering faeces with it's legs, chase it away because you do not know who would end up eating those legs, it might be you!. Any of us or someone close to us may need medical care someday, and may fall into the hands of these killers in uniform.
Nursing as a profession in Nigeria today requires three years of education in a school of Nursing for Nurse assistants or five years in the university, after which one must pass series of professional examinations. During training, like physicians nurses are exposed to courses like anatomy, physiology, medical biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology. As well as skills necessary to carry out certain routine Nursing procedures. These courses are designed to help a nurse make sound clinical judgements after careful observations, using certain guidelines known as the "Nursing process" . Hence, a nurse is bound by certain moral and ethical principles that have been developed over time, and frequently reviewed. This therefore entails that nurses are continuously trained, and sit for exams to bring them up to speed with current trends modern realities.
Sadly however, in an attempt to bridge cost and make quick money, doctors in the private sector aided by certain Nurses with low moral integrity have resorted to training and employing quacks who pretend to be Nurses, at the detriment of patient's safety. These quacks who are termed "Auxiliary Nurses" are responsible for countless harm done to patients on a daily bases, as well as the negative image currently being suffered by the Nursing profession today.
One may ask, is the job of a nurse so easy that a secondary school drop out could be trained to work like Nurse? The honest answer is a big No. In a country like Nigeria where a lot of things go unregulated, impersonating any professional is quite easy. We would not forget so easily the story of a man who impersonated a doctor in the ministry of health for up to a decade before he was caught. Visit the rural areas today, there are male nurses and 'chemist men' who pass themselves as doctors. Even bricklayers and foremen pass themselves as engineers and architects. These often go unnoticed until disaster occurs. In every profession, one could learn a handful of the basic rudiments and impersonate, until he or she is faced with a challenge that requires professional judgement.
These "auxiliaries" are often young secondary school leavers or older ones who have nothing else to do. They are recruited by private hospitals, and trained for six months, were they are mostly thought how to give injections, check vital signs, dress wounds, and in some cases they are allowed to take deliveries of pregnant women. They are given nurses uniforms and used as nurses. This is done under the assumption that there would always be a doctor around to give orders and control what they do. But herein lies the real danger to the patient. As in the case of Nasiru, there was no doctor around when the emergency occurred. He was left at the mercy of an uneducated slowpoke, who had no medical knowledge to make sound clinical decisions at that time, even if she knows how to give injections. Mr Nasiru simply had hypoglycemia Probably due to insulin overdose, or failure to eat after taking insulin. Even a first year nursing student would have anticipated and identified the symptoms and acted accordingly. Two cubes of sugar or a bottle of coke would have kept him alive pending further intervention.
Even in cases where there is a doctor or a Registered nurse supervising, the danger is not reduced in anyway. It does not change the fact that the Auxiliary holding a syringe is uneducated and unqualified to do the job, and hence is unaccountable for any error made, making her more likely to make grave errors. 8 days prior to the writing of this article, i spoke with a man who had a bad leg. He had been like that since he was 9 years old. How did he lose his leg? A nurse in a private hospital injected him right in the middle of his buttocks, Probably injuring his sciatic nerve leaving him paralysed for life. A simple knowledge of anatomy would have prevented this grave error.
Even when no lasting damage is done, these quacks misinform patients and expose them to further complications. One once told a pregnant woman that she could deliver her baby without ceaserian section, even after a doctor had told her it was her only option. She was eventually admitted into a private hospital to be delivered. She was fully dilated when she was moved to the delivery room. After unsuccessful attempts to push, there was no fetal descent. It was a doctor who later arrived that palpated her abdomen and discovered that the baby was lying transversely. She eventually went through casearian section
This pieces is intended to sensitize the public to be on the look out for these quacks. Countless errors have been made, lives have been lost to the activities of these quacks. The hospital owners are very good at covering up these incidences, or offering evasive and untrue explanations. According to the act establishing it, It is illegal and criminal to practice as a nurse without a license from the nursing and midwifery council of Nigeria or engage the services of such an individual. It is also a criminal act to train, or claim to train individuals as nurses, except in accredited institutions. A word of caution also goes out to the doctors in the private sector who undermine the lives and safety of their patients by training or engaging unqualified personnel to impersonate. One day, the Nursing council will wake up to its responsibility and tackle this menace head on.
Whenever you or a loved one checks into a private hospital, be weary of the 'nurses' that attend to you. It is your right to know the qualification of any nurse that attends to you. You could ask a simple question "Are you a registered Nurse?". Your life would be in serious danger if you leave life and death decisions about your health in the hands of an 'Auxiliary nurse ". They are uneducated and unlicensed quacks who have absolutely no idea what they are doing. You may be better off being looked after by your mother at home. Nigerians Beware!
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