For the last 15 years, Nigeria
and other African countries
have been struggling to
answer the increasing
demand for skilled healthcare
professionals, and the deficit
looks set to continue for the
foreseeable future.While
this is also true for other
professions in healthcare,
from doctors to paramedics,
the talent shortage facing
the nursing profession is at a
critical level in Nigeria, with
less than 150,000 registered
nurses to provide care for a
population of 160 million.
This leaves a nurse to patient
ratio of 1 to every 1,066 of
the population, more than 50
percent higher than the World
Health Organization’s (WHO)
recommended minimum of
1 to every 700 people.There
are many factors contributing
to the deficit, including an
ageing workforce and a lack
of graduates entering the
nursing profession.Qualified staff: Within Nigeria, there is
also the extra pressure of losing
a considerable percentage of
qualified staff to Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and
Development, OECD, member
countries. These countries are
more prosperous and often
attract nurses and nurse
educators with the promise
of more economically sound
futures.However, a study
published in 2014 in the Open
Journal of Nursing identified
lack of nursing leadership
as a major factor influencing
recruitment and retention
of nurses in Lagos health
institutions. The article also
mentioned the limited number
of nursing schools in the state,
which also happen to have
a declining graduation rate.
Overall, there is a significant
threat to the nation’s
healthcare system. Nurses are
leaving the profession faster
than vacancies are being filled.
This growing void between the
number of nurse educators and
the demand for trained nurses
is a major concern at a time
when there is greater demand
for specialist nurses, such as
midwives and those proficient
in treating long-term health
conditions such as diabetes.
As majority of nurses prepare
to retire within the next decade,
what will happen to Nigeria’s
healthcare system?To help
close the gap, it is important
to proactively promote the
benefits of transitioning into
nursing academia; after all,
retiring nurses are highly
skilled and experienced
professionals who may be
ready to transition out of direct
patient care but not prepared to
give up nursing altogether.As
a result, Nigeria could create
a community of educators
who can begin to safeguard
the future of the industry
by training and inspiring
nursing students. Instead of
retiring, nurses can continue to
contribute in one of many ways,
such as becoming a part-time
lecturer, mentoring students,
or being a guest lecturer.There
is a need to demystify the
world of academia so that the
next generation doesn’t face the
same problem. Although nurses
may view a career in academia
as somehow less impactful
than physically caring for the
infirm, an academic career
can be just as rewarding
when considering their own
quality of life, the satisfaction
they will feel training others,
and their ability to effect
positive social change.With
a greater focus that includes
career coaching and advice,
becoming a nurse educator
doesn’t have to be a phase
before retirement; rather, it
can be a professional goal
that nurses aspire to achieve
sooner in their careers.To help
facilitate this, it’s paramount
to make it easy for nurses
to continue their passion
for helping people, whether
that’s directly with patients
or in the classroom. With
minimal local nursing school
options in Nigeria, online
education can help prepare
and build the workforce
the country desperately
needs.Also, since nurses’
schedules often vary, online
education not only offers the
flexibility to earn a degree on
one’s own time, but it also
enables students to learn
best practices from nurses
and faculty around the
world.As Nigeria continues
its momentous growth, its
healthcare system needs to
be staffed with trained nurses
who are prepared to support
the impact of this growth,
and the country’s seasoned
nurses can be a first line of
defence to help guarantee
the future of the people. It
will be important to have
an academic environment
that supports all those who
wish to ensure the field
of nursing will endure.
Lindell, PhD, is an
Associate Dean at Walden
University School of Nursing

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