‘A nurse is never out of Job’
Dr. Margaret Dolapo Ekiran is on top of her nursing career as the Head, Department Of Nursing Science, College Of Medicine, University Of Lagos. Her engagement with the nursing profession dates back to her secondary school days when she fell in love with the appearance of nurses during a visit to a hospital, and from there pursued the course to the highest level. She talks about the gains and challenges of the profession
The first time Dr. Margaret Dolapo Ekiran, Head of Department, Nursing Science, College of Medicine, University of Lagos saw nurses, she knew she had met people of like mind.
And when a smiling nurse in her short dress, starched cap and apron laid her hands on the shoulders of the shivering teenage patient, she knew that there was her life vocation.
She has not known any other work since she became a nurse. And today, she is at the top of her career as the head of the Nursing department in a teaching hospital.
“When I started, I was a bit naive, not knowing so many things because I went straight from secondary school,” she recalls.
Notwithstanding, however, she went through all the training and obtained a PhD in Nursing.
A nurse obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy degree! We were surprised and would not let it rest without further explanation. “The nursing profession is not only about giving drugs and injections,” she stressed, adding, “Nursing demands for intensive study which at the end of the day, a student at a college of medicine who is successful would leave with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.”
Nursing Science, she explains, is the act of taking care of a patient. She adds that the course produces a trained Registered Nurse, trained Registered Midwife and Public Health Administrator.
Lagos University Teaching Hospital may have begun a degree-awarding programme to nurses only six years ago, but she says that some universities in the country have been running them for some time.
Dr. Ekiran is the founding head of that department, and she explains that she had not set it up, as it needed a teacher of a professor’s post to do so. It was, therefore, put in place by a professor from Obafemi Awolowo University.
Nonetheless, there are still challenges in keeping the department functioning, “as in anything new that could pass through a teething stage.”
Some of these are coping with the number of students who desire to study there; handling the number already reading in the institution and academic work. With teaching, the work is endless so much so that you may have to take the work home to continue. “There are papers to be marked and preparation for lecture the following day. At the ward, work finishes at the end of eight hours, but in academics, work begins at the end of the day.”
The Guardian took up the lecturer on the power tussle between doctors and nurses, which outsiders are aware of. So, who of the two is more important when it comes to taking care of us when we feel sick?
“Both are,” she says. “A patient needs the doctor who makes the diagnosis of the disease and writes the order of treatment; the nurse is there round the clock to make sure that the patient gets well by giving him his food and his medicine. Both are needed.”
She admits though that a cold war exists sometimes between the two professions, which she says should not be if everybody knows his limit. “A feeling of encroachment may cause a problem once in a while, when for example, a nurse wants to go beyond her duties; the Nurse may feel annoyed when a Doctor undermines her intelligence and treats her as inferior and lacking in enough training. It happens once in a while.”
The society on the other hand, appreciates the nurse, she observes, noting that misunderstanding about who exactly the nurse is becomes an issue with people sometimes. “But they know that the doctor is not there all the time to take care of them.”
Her description of the nurse is, “A nurse is knowledgeable; she can take the right decision at the right time. She works under pressure without caving in.”
She points to the challenges of the nurse. “Stress is the trial of the average nurse. If your work is in a busy ward, you would not be surprised that you are on your feet for 24 hours.”
Another one is grief. “Your job is to make people get better and help them to good health. It is to become attached to your patient but when a life is lost, you may grieve as if you were family. But that is part of the work.”
On quality of nurses who have passed through LUTH, she reacts: “They have to be better than others because they have been trained in a teaching hospital.”
What work does a nurse with a BSc do? They do the same thing as the trained nurse would because they have a diploma and have obtained certificates of the National Registered Nurse (NRN) and National Registered Midwife (NRM)
She recalls her rewarding experience: “I have grown up on the job. I have come a long way since the day when as a secondary school student I went to Wesley Hospital, Ilesha with my father and saw nurses in their smart uniforms and fell in love with the smart way they walked and their neatness. I have no regrets because nurses are recognised in any part of the world. A nurse is never out of job. If you can’t get work in a government hospital, there are private hospitals. You know enough to take care of the family when they are sick.”
It is a profession for both men and women although there are more women, the number of men is on the increase now, she says. Presently, there is need for more men to come into the job, she says, adding that although there could still be women nurse working in the male wards but some patients may prefer to be cared for by nurses of the same sex.
Nursing can help in tackling the unemployment problem, she pointed out, stressing however that the entrant should be ready to work hard; he must have credit passes in Physics, Chemistry and Biology with credit in Mathematics and English Language, adding, “It is the same requirements as demanded if you want to read Medicine.”
Her personal joy as a nurse is “When a patient gets well. Once, I worked at a Paediatric ward of private hospital at Bariga. All the mothers knew me and when I went to the market, they introduced me to their friends with excitement. They practically gave their wares free of charge that I became embarrassed to go there. You are happy to see children you nursed growing up?
The only regret is losing a patient. You may cry when a patient who was getting better is lost. It is sad when a promising young patient is lost.”
Her advice to aspiring nurses is, “Take your studies seriously; it is not true that nurses’ ‘work is to give drugs and injections. Be serious; don’t be carried away with university life.”
After obtaining the NRN at Eku Hospital in Delta State, Dr. Ekiran got the NRM from Lagos State School of Nursing. BSc is from Dallas University, Houston, Texas. She got the Master’s degree from Women University, Denton, Texas. She obtained PhD from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. And to prepare for teaching, she took a postgraduate diploma in Education from the University of Lagos.
Of the change from America to Nigeria, she observes, “If your husband moves, you will have to relocate.”
Her husband is supportive, she says, noting that only a supportive husband would encourage a wife to study widely.
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