Lofa County – The Esther Bacon School of Nursing and Midwifery (EBSNM) in Zorzor, Lofa County on Saturday, October 27, 2018 graduated 61 candidates after completing three years of study.
The graduates were awarded Diplomas during the 9th Commencement Exercises of EBSNM held at the site of the school’s multi-purpose Building under construction at the Curran Lutheran Church Hospital Compound in Zorzor, Lofa County.
These 61 trained mid-level health care providers graduated from two medical disciplines including, Registered Nurses (12), Registered Midwifery (39), and Certified Midwifery Bridging (10) Programs.
The United Nations Funds for Population Activities (UNFPA), Assistant Representative and Officer-In-Charge Dr. Philderald Pratt serving as Guest Speaker at the EBSNM Graduation Exercises, reminded the graduates to demonstrate “strong ethical values” in providing health services to their patients. Dr. Pratt spoke on the topic; “Strong Ethical Values: The Most Vital Tool for Nurses and Midwives in the fight against maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in Liberia”.
He told the graduates that the health status of a nation is often determined by its Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR). “Our MMR is discouragingly high”; he emphasized, and it appears that we are losing this battle”. “Graduates, Dr. Pratt cautioned, today our focus is placed on your role, as nurses and midwives and the significance of your involvement in addressing this menace or danger in the health sector.
Speaking further, Dr. Pratt asked a number of hard-hitting questions; how do we stop our mothers and their young ones from dying needlessly? What is the role of government? Do we have soldiers? How well trained are our soldiers? Are they equipped to face the enemy, and do we have a coordinated command structure?
Touching on government’s commitment to supporting health: the UNFPA Official questioned; are we on course for the Abuja Accord, which requires commitment of a minimum of 10% of the annual budget to be spent on the health sector?
Addressing his audience further, Dr. Pratt said; “that quality human workforce, as well as joint efforts and commitments of all stakeholders are essential to improving the overall health indicators of Liberia. He disclosed that over the last two decades despite of the ills of our prolonged civil crisis further exhibited by the EVD, we can boast of having made some significant gains: in the following areas:
Increase in the number of skilled providers (2,000 Certified Midwives, 7,438 Registered Nurses, 712 Registered Midwives, and 62 Registered Nurse-Midwives), reduced under-five mortality rate, and improved contraceptive prevalence rate amongst others. The UNFPA Deputy Boss warned; but the fight against maternal mortality reduction is far from being won.
Dwelling further on his topic; Strong Ethical Values: The Most Vital Tool of Nurses and Midwives in the fight against Maternal and Neonatal Mortality and Morbidity in Liberia, Dr. Pratt defined Ethics as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior of conducting of an activity. Dr. Pratt reflected; we first learned about ethics in our fundamentals of Nursing and Midwifery courses where we learned among many principles, Nurses and Midwives should: Respect their patients, maintain their patients’ dignity, protect their patients’ rights, protect the safety of the patient and be sensitive to the religious and cultural rights of the patients.
Speaking further, Dr. Pratt told the EBSNM 61 graduates; “your ability to live up to the high expectations of your patients will depend on how well you have invested in developing your personal, technical and social competencies”; adding, “your ability to perform at your very best depends your competencies”.
Ethics, according to the UNFPA Staff, is your ability to respond promptly, to help clients make an informed choice about a proposed intervention by setting out its benefits and its risks, to ensure that information about clients is treated as confidential and used only for the purposes for which it was provided as well as your ability to respond to client’s complains about their care or treatment in a prompt, open and constructive fashion (including an ability to offer an explanation and, if appropriate, an apology, and/or to follow local complaints procedures).
Concluding, Dr. Pratt challenged the graduates that if you can exhibit these skills in your clinical sojourn in the fight to reduce maternal mortality, not only will maternal and neonatal mortality be on a downward trajectory but so will all other disease conditions. He called for the requisite support and enabling environment must be provided to ensure that these nurses and midwives can perform at their fullest potential; adding, in our fight to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and many other disease conditions.
Presenting the graduates earlier to the Chief of Medical Staff at the Curran Lutheran Hospital for onward presentation to the Lofa County Health Team and the Ministry of Health, the Director of the EBSNM, Willimai Geninyan recounted the achievements of the institution in developing Liberia’s health workforce. Willimai praised partners of the School, including USAID through the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) for improving both the infrastructure and learning environment.
The EBSNM Director outlined key activities as; upgrading of the Simulation Lab and Library as well as a fully equipped Computer Lab with full Internet coverage and the provision of vehicle to transport students to Clinical sites. She declared that the administration plans to make EBSNM a full-fresh degree level Institution; adding, “To make our institution learning friendly, we have embarked on the construction of a multi-purpose complex, which is currently at foundation level”.
Several dignitaries who were we among scores of well-wishers gave remarks at the event including; the Ministry of Health represented by the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Tarloh Quiwonkpa, Lofa County Health Officer, Representatives of Nursing/Midwifery Institutions, Liberian Nurses Association, Liberian Midwifery Association, and Liberia Board for Nursing and Midwifery.
Other personalities who made remarks included; Esther Bacon Board of Trustee, Lutheran Church of Liberia, Zorzor District Commissioner and NGO Partner Representatives.
The Esther Bacon School of Nursing and Midwifery is one of the six Pre-Service Training Institutions being supported by the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) a global effort to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes funded by USAID as its primary support to the MOH National Health Workforce Program for increasing the quality and quantity of human resources for health.
MCSP works alongside the Government of Liberia and partners to strengthen health services. MCSP/HRH is working to improve health workforce readiness, with a focus on reinforcing entry-level Registered Midwives and Medical Laboratory Technicians’ Pre-Service Education. With USAID support the MCSP HRH Project focuses on improving health workers performance and delivery of services in building a fit-for-purpose productive and motivated health workforce that equitably and optimally delivers quality services by implementing key activities including, development of leadership and management as well as faculty and preceptors, curriculum revision and update, improving skills and computer labs, updating library and strengthening clinical site in evidence based practice.