Nurses Leading the Way in Aswan, Egypt
Nurses Leading the Way in Aswan, Egypt
In Aswan, Egypt’s sunniest southern city located about one and a half hours by plane from Cairo, the Nile is at its most striking. Tropical plants grow along the edges of the flowing river, and the amber desert and granite rocks surround orchards of palm trees.
I was honored to be present in Aswan during one of Management Sciences for Health’s most important events; the results presentation of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Improving the Performance of Nurses in Upper Egypt (IPN) project in the Aswan governorate.
During this event, teams of nurses from all over Aswan came together to present their results to stakeholders. General Mohamad Mostafa, the Secretary General of Aswan governorate, made the first introductory remarks and expressed his great satisfaction with the results achieved in Aswan. James Bever, Director of USAID/Egypt, followed with a powerful and moving story of the nurse who saved his wife’s life when she was giving birth. The nurse noticed she was in distress because of an error the doctor made setting up her IV, which she corrected.
In Egypt, the nursing workforce is predominantly female. Thus, addressing gender issues and supporting the quality and productivity of nursing care is essential to empowering nurses and changing their image within the health sector and the community. The LDP has revolutionized the health system in Egypt by empowering a new generation of nurses to confidently take their lives in their own hands and solve challenges using the proven tools of the LDP. The program, through the leadership development approach, strives to change the workplace into an enabling environment through raising male and female staff awareness about gender and addressing specific issues such as gender roles that can limit options for men and women, discrimination, treatment of nurses, and, in some cases, workplace violence.
While at the event, I met an exemplary woman whose life has changed because of the LDP. Samiha Badawi, head of 40 nurses at Sabaeyya district hospital, always felt dissatisfied with her job. She was thinking of quitting nursing and switching to a career in law. After Samiha graduated from Assuit University and moved to Aswan, she married and had a daughter, Menna, on November 9, 2010. She attended the LDP while pregnant, participated in a networking meeting two days before her delivery, and went to the results presentation with her newborn. After the LDP program she is determined that she can continue nursing and improve the health of others in Aswan.
Samiha’s determination to make change happen is inspiring, especially in the context of a society where many men do not let their wives go to trainings and workshops because they believe this interferes with responsibilities like caring for children, cooking, and cleaning. She expressed her gratitude for program manager Dr. Abdo’s work, and cited him as an example of a man who empowers nurses to believe in themselves and make change happen.
Samiha attended every workshop because she felt it was important to speak out for the nurses who could not be there. The workshops effectively brought out nurses’ inner strength, she explained:
As a leader, I changed the way I interact with the nurses I work with. We became one together and we all feel empowered. We are the ones who need to make the changes happen.
Since completing the LDP, Samiha no longer thinks of leaving nursing. She believes she is the key to change and is committed to continuing to improve the health system. With determination, she tells me, “It is our job now to train the remaining nurses. The seeds have been planted and we have to help to grow them all over.”
Mayssa El Khazen is a Program Coordinator in MSH's Center for Leadership and Management.