Unprofessional? Give the overworked and underpaid nurses a break

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Across page 2 of the Samoa Observer yesterday, the story titled “Unprofessional” nurses irritate P.M. Tuilaepa” was published.

Just down below the headline, the Prime Minister is being quoted from his weekly media programme, slamming the attitude of certain nurses whom he was clearly unhappy with.

What triggered Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s outburst couldn’t be ascertained. Whether he has had a bad experience at the hospital or perhaps he’s had people getting into his ear about the issue, he did not say. 

What he did say though was not only sad; it raised a lot of eyebrows given the fact that not all nurses are “unprofessional” as he claimed. Okay there might be a few who are the bad apples. But the truth is that here are also many of them, who work diligently and honestly to serve the people of Samoa, to the best of their ability. 

In generalizing his comments about members of the nursing profession, Prime Minister Tuilaepa obviously did not consider the hard working nurses, who are often overworked and worst of all underpaid. 

Which is the sad thing about all this. It’s so easy to point the finger, especially to a defenseless group of professionals – whom in Samoa are mostly women.

Listen to the Prime Minister again: “The nurses need to stick to their profession and stop telling-off patients. This is not the first time that I have been informed about such unprofessional behavior towards patients.”

The Prime Minister added that the behaviour of nurses today, is not like that of nurses in the past, where they were courteous, professional and polite.

 “Nowadays, it appears the nurses with degrees think they know better,” Tuilaepa said, adding that it appears their qualifications have “gotten into their heads and they forget their job is to serve the patients and not scold them.”

Well is that right? 

How is it humanly possible for the Prime Minister to know what has gone into the nurses heads? Is he an expert in reading other people’s minds and body language now? If that’s the case, what can he tell us about all these factions we are seeing in his Government today?  

Of course he did not stop there. He went to accuse them of being rude to doctors.

“This is the same attitude they display towards the doctors,” Tuilaepa said. 

“I am telling you (nurses), if you want to be a doctor, go back to school to get your doctors degree. But for now you are a nurse, stick to being nurse.”

“If you are a nurse, work in accordance with your abilities, but don’t work like you are the doctor when in fact you are a nurse.”

Was this really necessary? Bullying tactics yes, but demeaning nurses in such a manner, and insulting them too like they are little kids? Seriously? I’ve never heard of a case where a nurse has pretended to be a doctor? Not in Samoa anyway.

It would be wonderful to hear what the nurses think. The Samoa Nurses Association should issue a response, and tell the Prime Minister where he needs to go.

The point is that while Tuilaepa’s anger might be justified in the case of some nurses, he should think before he leaps. There are far more nurses doing a great job to serve the people of Samoa, than the ones who ruin their work. 

Come to think of it, this doesn’t just happen in the nursing profession. Bad attitude is an issue across the board, it’s a global problem. Which is why it is unfair to crucify the poor nurses in the manner with which Prime Minister Tuilaepa has done. 

And here’s another thing Prime Minister Tuilaepa should consider. It was only a few months ago that a Commission of Inquiry, to consider the proposed organizational structure of the merger between the Ministry of Health and the National Health Services, highlighted the friction between the nurses and doctors.

The report by the Commission clearly highlighted how leaders of the health sector in Samoa exist in a “state of warfare”. 

 “There is a fundamental lack of effective leadership over and within the health sector, which is now in a critical state of dysfunction, and has been torn asunder by sector-wide hostility, suspicion and conflict,” the report reads.

 “This woeful state of affairs has been allowed to continue, and indeed flourish through a lack of attention, and an unwillingness at the highest level to stamp out the destructive behavior and arrogant behavior of certain sector health leaders and their followers.”

So what the solution?

 “The Commission strongly recommends the conduct of a formal process of reconciliation between the leaders of the warring occupational groups,” the report says. 

 “(There is also) a need for a nationwide resetting of health sector goals where the best interests of patients and the needs of the public, dictate the form of health administration we have, (and not groups of privileged self- centered office bound jet setting combatants), whilst the vast majority of ill- treated underpaid staff continue to work hard and do the best with what they have, whilst ‘the war’ rages above and around them.”

Has the Government moved to implement this recommendation at all? Or was the Commission’s report in vain? 

And with Prime Minister Tuilaepa taking sides, as he has clearly done in ridiculing nurses publically, isn’t it obvious then why the health sector is in such a mess today? Shouldn’t our leaders be impartial in their judgment and be sensitive about what they say? Or have they become too powerful they just don’t care? What do you think? 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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