President Julius Maada Bio recognises sacrifices of nurses and midwives, announces the first-ever strategic plan for the nursing profession

State House, Freetown, Tuesday 19 March 2019 – President Julius Maada Bio has celebrated the sacrifices of nurses and midwives in Sierra Leone and announced efforts being made to develop Sierra Leone’s first ever Nurses and Midwifery Strategic Plan for 2019-2023.

“I am always curious but eternally thankful about how nurses and midwives combine their professional training with acute critical thinking and mix all of that with compassion, care, communicating with empathy, and building trust as caregivers,” he said, adding that the strategic plan would lay out six major pathways for developing the nursing education and practice in the country.

Addressing the conference of the West African College of Nursing and Midwifery, the Fifteenth Biennial General Meeting and Twenty-Fourth Scientific Session and Thirty-Ninth Council Meeting on the theme: ‘The Role of Nurses And Midwives in Building Global Health Security’, President Bio said he admired their deep sense of integrity and discipline, their responsiveness as the only source of hope to the pregnant, the ailing, and the sick, and their ever calm, dignified and transformative composure in the face of challenges.

“The aims and outcomes of this conference align very closely with my flagship programme – investing in human capital development. As I have emphasised severally, human capital development involves feeding the mind through free quality education, feeding the body with food security initiatives, and taking care of the human body through delivering affordable and quality healthcare. Only an educated, productive, and healthy population can drive sustainable development in a nation.

“Let me digress for a moment and bestow special praise on our midwives. For every new child that you midwife; for every mother’s life that you save during childbirth, thank you. The great work that you do for humanity often gets reduced to statistical figures about maternal and child mortality. For me, every cry of a new-born baby and every smile of a new mother reminds me as a leader that I must work even harder to support, and continue to advocate for and invest in women’s health and in primary and maternity health care services,” he said.

President Bio said his government recognised and had granted nurses the professional autonomy and authority to make professional decisions and act freely in accordance with their professional training and expertise.

“To my mind, this recognition empowers nurses to provide nursing care within the full scope of their practice. But, this also should be balanced against concerns about patient safety and patient health outcomes. I am therefore encouraged that in Sierra Leone, as in parts of the sub-region, a regulatory nursing and midwifery council has been set up that will oversee overall professional standards of nursing practice and ethics and also monitor service delivery to patients,” he said.

The President also told the gathering that his government was working to address the working environment and conditions of health care professionals in the country, adding that he had therefore increased budgetary allocation to healthcare to 15% of the national budget. He said the government had also undertaken the refurbishment of key hospitals, constructed peripheral health units, and provided free ambulance services in various districts across the country.

The principal of the National School of Midwifery, Dr. Joan Shepherd, said the presence of President Bio at the event was a resounding testament of his commitment to building a strong, resilient and responsive health workforce and more importantly a manifestation of his support to moving the nursing and midwifery agenda forward in Sierra Leone.

“In these challenging times, nurses and midwives, who form the largest workforce globally, deserve more attention and focus more than ever before. There has been an increase in the importance of the work of nurses and midwives globally. We are players in building global health security and we remain at the centre of the global health system,” she said.

She commended the government for the bold step in declaring rape and sexual violence as a national emergency and expressed appreciation for the recent increases in the salaries of nurses and doctors across the country, saying that that had sent a clear message of recognition of those professionals as the backbone to health service delivery.

The West African College of Nursing and Midwifery also bestowed an Honorary Fellow Status on Her Excellency, First Lady Fatima Bio for championing causes that empower women and girls.

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