The role of nurses is critical to achieving the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The call was made by Dr Augustin Sendegeya, the Director of Butare University Teaching Hospital (CHUB), while speaking at the International Nurses’ Day celebrations in Gisagara District last Friday.
Dr Sendegeya, who spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Health, appreciated the contribution of nurses toward Rwanda’s community health but said more efforts are needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially focusing on the health sector.
He said, “Nursing is more than a profession, it is a passion. We are required to multiply the efforts we use in our profession to reach our targets which correspond to those of Sustainable Development Goals. The lives of Rwandans are in our hands, so we have to protect their lives at all costs, thanks to the skills and experience we have.”
He urged nurses on up skilling, saying their profession needs updated practical skills to successfully cope with health demands.
Themed, ‘Nurse: a voice to lead, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’, the International Nurses’ Day which is annually celebrated on May 12, featured discussions on achievements, daily challenges as well as what is needed to contribute to the country’s SDGs.
Andre Gitembagara, the body’s president in an interview with the Newtimes called on nurses to focus on ensuring healthy lives for Rwandans and promoting well-being for all ages which is one of the 17 SDGs set in the 2030 agenda.
He said, “Nurses should make sure that their efforts are recognised by nobody else but the health service beneficiaries due to their excellent services despite working in a tiring environment because of a big number of patients per nurse.”
Meanwhile, on the same day, the Rwanda Nurses and Midwives Union donated cows to five Genocide survivors in Kibilizi Sector in Gisagara, after paying tribute to victims of the 1994 Genocide laid to rest at the Sector’s Genocide Memorial.
Impressive progress in health sector
The majority of workers in health sector are nurses and midwives, accounting for 80 per cent.
Over the last 23 years, Rwanda’s health sector has seen progress.
More than ten schools of nursing and midwifery have been established from only one school in 1995, which was offering diplomas.
There are 11 schools, which offer Diploma, Bachelors’ or Masters Courses.
On the other hand, medical services have improved as the number of nurses and midwives now is estimated to be over 15 000 nurses. In 1995 there were at least 400 nurses countrywide.
Thanks to improved health services, life expectancy has risen to 65 years of age.
Understaffing was cited among the nurses’ challenges.
“We are still finding it difficult to deal with patients’ healthcare with satisfaction as the number of patients per nurse is still big,” said Emerance Umurerwa, a nurse at Butare University Teaching Hospital.
There are 12700 nurses registered with Rwanda Nurses and Midwives Union (RNMU) but only 8000 nurses are recruited in the health sector in the country.
Dr Sendegeya admits the ministry is aware of all these challenges and is trying to find solutions one by one.
“We have to be happy if we are to compare where we were in the past 22 years. I hope the challenges will be addressed since the Government knows about the challenges,” he said.