Investing in the Power of Nurses

Women make up 70% of the total health and social care workforce. In the nursing and midwifery profession, that percentage is even higher. Despite this, however, women hold only 25% of health system leadership roles.

Addressing gender-related barriers to leadership in nursing is critical to ensuring universal access to quality health services and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.

Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take? is a new report launched by Nursing Now in collaboration with IntraHealth and Johnson and Johnson.

Drawing on surveys and interviews with over 2,500 nurses and nurse-leaders, the report offers essential new insights into the lived experiences of nurses worldwide.

At the Women Deliver 2019 Conference, Girls’ Globe spoke to Barbara Stilwell, Executive Director of Nursing Now.

She told us: “This moment in time is a moment for nurses. And I don’t think it will come again for a long time.”

The research found that there are a ‘constellation of barriers’ preventing female nurses in particular from progressing into leadership roles.

Key recommendations to address these barriers include:

1. Change the perception of the nursing as a ‘soft science’ and elevate the status and profile of nursing in the health sector.

2. Address occupational sex segregation and eliminate the perception of nursing as ‘women’s work.’

3. Eliminate employer discrimination on the basis of gender or child-bearing status.

4. Build nurses’ self-confidence and sense of preparedness to assume leadership positions.

5. Ensure workplace environments that are safe and responsive to work/life balance and allow for employee flexibility to fulfil both formal work and unpaid care responsibilities.

6. Ensure opportunities for nurses to access funding for leadership development, higher education, or other professional development.

7. Foster increased access to professional networks and mentoring schemes for nurses.

It’s clear that major changes are required to strengthen leadership and equality in the global nursing workforce. This report reflects the voices of nurses – it’s time for the rest of the world to listen.

This blog post was created by Girls’ Globe powered by Johnson & Johnson.

Solo Sister will Ski to the South Pole

In November 2016, I will ski to the South Pole and I aim to be the first Swedish woman to attempt this solo skiing expedition. Join my adventure!

This year in November, I will start to ski solo to the South Pole. Starting from the coastline and onwards to the South Pole, heading 90 degrees south. You can’t get further south than that. This journey will take me approximately two months. Chances of meeting other people are extremely small, therefore I prepare to be fully self-supported. I will bring everything from the start, which means i will be unassisted during the whole expedition.

Solo Sister

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Photo Credit: Anna Lovehed

The name comes from a combination of past experiences and my profession. Last time I did a longer expedition was together with my sister. We crossed Greenland from south to north with kites. This time I will go solo. Sister also stands for my profession as a nurse. As a nurse you sometimes need to have courage and focus, which I also need for this expedition. I wish to raise awareness about my profession in a positive way.

Following My Dream

To be the first Swedish woman to ski to the South Pole inspires me, but it is not what is motivating me the most. My motivation is to experience this unexplored continent where few people have visited and fully immerse myself in its raw natural world. It is amazing to have a dream, to make the decision and then go for it.

The Adventurer of the Year 2014

After my sister and I had crossed Greenland we received the award of ”The Adventurer of the year”  with the nomination: ”The first Swedes to cross Greenland from the south (Narsaq) to the north (Qaanaaq) non-stop. Caroline and Johanna have showed big experience by accomplishing 2300 km in 36 days on skis and kites over the ice cap. They have showed that it is possible to realize a big expedition aside from a full-time job and that adventures should be fun.”

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Photo Credit: Ellinor Falkgjerdet

About Johanna Davidsson

In Swedish the nickname for nurse is “sister”. So, Johanna is a professional sister, a little sister and a solo sister. As a female adventurer she strives to inspire other women and girls to go out to explore. While doing so, she doesn’t want her or her fellow sisters to be defined as “girl adventurers”. Johanna has gone further than most women and men. Her strength lies in the desire to be outdoors. She was primarily drawn to the French Alps for several ski seasons. She continued to enjoy white open spaces, ski hills and ice caps during her education in the Nordic landscape. Her life was based in outdoor hubs like Storuman, Umeå and Tromsø. Ski tours and mountain trips became a build-up for a Greenland expedition in 2014. She then crossed the ice sheet together with one of her big sisters and they became the first Swedes to cover that distance – an award winning expedition, which made them the Swedish Adventurers of the year. This time she is going on her own, as a solo sister. But she is doing this expedition for her fellow sisters as well. For the professional ones and the adventurous ones.

Want to support Johanna? Send her an email at info@solosister.se

 

Enough with the Breastfeeding Hypocrisy

Featured image: Elina Tuomi 

In early December, a Chinese mother made international headlines because she nursed her baby in the Beijing subway. A fellow passenger had taken a picture of the mother breastfeeding and shared it on social media with the caption “let me remind you that this is the Beijing subway, not a bus in your village”. Last week a Finnish celebrity stylist and a TV personality posted a picture to his Instagram and Facebook profiles of a mother nursing her baby on a Finnair flight from Helsinki to New York. His caption read “I know I am going to raise hell with this post but would it be too much to ask for mothers breastfeeding in public to cover the activity with a scarf?!” – his hashtags included #decency and #firstclass. A few days ago, a Republican State Representative Josh Moore from New Hampshire stated in his Facebook page that if a proposed bill banning women from exposing their nipples in public does not pass, if women choose to expose their nipples in public for the purposes of breastfeeding men should be allowed to “stare at it and grab it”. Apparently, according to Mr. Moore, the inclination for men to “stare and grab” an exposed nipple is as natural and therefore comparable to a mother’s inclination to feed her hungry child. Earlier in January, Donald Trump called a lawyer and breastfeeding mother “disgusting” for needing to take a break to pump milk.

I. Just. Can’t. With. The. Hypocrisy.

As a feminist, a woman, a mother and a human being I am absolutely sick and tired of having to fight over a mother’s right to feed her child. I am also sick and tired about the ridiculous hypocrisy that surrounds the issue of public breastfeeding – which, honestly, should be the biggest non-issue of the history of the world. What could be more non-controversial, non-threatening, and more natural than a mother breastfeeding her baby?

Here’s the thing: This isn’t a question about decency. This isn’t an issue about people getting all hot and bothered over some exposed skin. This isn’t about nudity, or babies, or even breasts.

It’s an issue about control over the female body and sexuality. About why, when and for whom women expose their bodies and breasts and who gets to determine whether it is acceptable or not. Apparently, according to quite a few people, this is to be determined by almost anyone else except for the woman in question herself.

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It’s as simple as that.

Throughout history, women’s bodies have been used as a political battleground, a stage for patriarchy, a tool for male dominance, a vehicle for capitalism. Our bodies have been abused, taken advantage of, prodded, poked, grabbed and violated in the name of advertisement, entertainment, and profit making. We – men and women – are used to seeing the female body exposed for such purposes, whether on billboards, TV or on stage – but when it becomes a question of using our body – and a highly sexualized part of it: the breast – for nursing a child, suddenly people are all up in arms about what is decent and acceptable. Additionally, for some reason many people seem to think that nursing mothers are some sort of exhibitionists – that we’re just waiting for that perfect moment to flash our nipple to an unsuspecting stranger. That we’re holding on to that nursing bra clasp in anticipation, ready to release the glory of our milk dripping breast under the guise of “feeding our child”, when what we really want is to see the shock and horror on your face when you are nearly blinded by the sight of our dark areola. Have a taste of that, you total stranger! How about them nipples, hmhhhh??

No. Just. No.

Let me tell you a secret: Many breastfeeding mothers don’t enjoy nursing in public. Many breastfeeding mothers actually don’t enjoy nursing, period. And even those of us who do enjoy nursing, and who don’t mind nursing in public places, still eventually find ourselves in situations where we are wrestling a squirming baby with one hand, sweat dripping from our forehead, while somehow trying to keep our nipple covered with the other hand and get our too-interested-in-everything-but-the-boob baby to nurse. I would venture a guess that almost every mother would rather pick a calm, quiet and private spot for breastfeeding their kid than a public one – but there’s this annoying manufacturing flaw in (most) babies: they sometimes get hungry outside of the comfort of their own home. They sometimes need to feed when on the go. And, some of them just won’t take the bottle; some mothers don’t want to offer the bottle because it might cause problems for breastfeeding; and some mothers just can’t pump (or don’t want to, because it kinda sucks). Surprisingly, some babies also do not appreciate it when someone tries to throw a blanket on their face when they’re trying to eat. None of these reasons are any business of anyone else’s though – the crux of the issue is simple:

A mother has a right to feed her child, in her chosen method of feeding, wherever and whenever the need arises.

 

We do not breastfeed our children for your viewing pleasure. We do not need nor want you to stare at us while we’re feeding our babies. Your eyes have a built-in feature: they can look away. Most importantly: We do not need your acceptance, permission or approval. Our bodies are not here to serve or entertain you. Public breastfeeding is protected by the law in many parts of the world, and where it isn’t it should be. There is nothing more natural in this world than a mother breastfeeding her baby – so excuse me when I take a moment to not give a crap when you lift your eyes from the full page advertisement of a half-naked woman to give me the evil judging eye while I breastfeed. And let me be clear: women in skimpy or tight clothes have nothing to be ashamed for either – but neither do women who choose to breastfeed in public. Let’s make 2016 the year to end stigma and shame around public breastfeeding, once and for all.

Edit: This post has been corrected to note that the proposed bill in New Hampshire that would make it illegal for women to expose their nipples in public does have an exemption for breastfeeding mothers. 

Image of Texas breastfeeding law courtesy of Will C. Fry/Flickr, Creative Commons.

The Best and Worst of Breastfeeding

Nursing my now 10-month old son is one of the most beautiful, but also one of the hardest and most challenging things I’ve ever done.

first latchI always knew I wanted to nurse my baby. Before giving birth to him in last September, I had prepared for breastfeeding the best I could. I had talked to my mom friends about it, I had read about possible challenges, I had gone to a childbirth education class with my husband and hired a doula who was also able to support me with breastfeeding. I had my troops gathered and ready, and once my son was born, it quickly became clear he was a pro at nursing. Mere seconds after he was born, he eagerly latched on – and hasn’t let go of my breast since. We had our challenges in the beginning, there were a few days when nursing definitely wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world – but fairly quickly we got the hang of it, and we got off to a good start. We have now enjoyed a very successful 10+ months of breastfeeding with very little, if any, real issues.

And yet – breastfeeding is still one of the most difficult, challenging, emotional and draining things I have ever experienced in my life. Breastfeeding may be a very natural thing, but that definitely does not mean it’s easy.

I’ve had many moments of anxiety about nursing. Instead of nursing feeling like a privilege and pleasure, it has sometimes felt like a chore, something I had to do but didn’t really want to. While I love to see my son grow from breast milk and feel proud about my body’s ability to nourish him, there are days when I also feel anxious over how dependent he is of my breasts. In the beginning, his tiny belly could only hold very little at a time, and he needed to feed often – which meant I would sometimes jump out of the shower in the middle of shampooing my hair because I heard his hungry wails through the running water. I couldn’t imagine leaving the apartment without him, and most of the time I ate my meals over him, with my baby lying on the nursing pillow and eating at the same time. By the end of the day, he would be covered in crumbs of whatever I had been eating throughout the day.  I would sit on the couch until there was an imprint of my butt permanently pressed to the cushion, watch my son’s cheeks move in and out as he nursed – and inside, I would feel horrible over the negative feelings I was experiencing. I felt smothered by how attached to my breasts he was – and then I felt guilty about feeling that way, and would try to push those feelings aside and ignore them. The longer I ignored them, the harder it got – and eventually I would find myself nursing him while crying at the same time, without really knowing why I was crying.

I’d barely been a mom for five minutes, and already I was overwhelmed, feeling crushed under the weight of someone depending on me so completely and utterly as this little baby boy did. What was wrong with me?

Nothing. Nothing was wrong with me, and I’ve come to realize that the feelings I was experiencing – and still experience every now and then – are perfectly normal. Even when mothers are able to breastfeed their babies, there are still moments when it’s very hard. It’s emotional, draining, tiring, frustrating– and this is why it is so incredibly important that we ensure that all pregnant women, everywhere in the world, have access to proper support for breastfeeding before and after labor, and that there are policies and structures in place to allow mothers to continue nursing after returning to work, which is also the focus of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week. Not all women will want to nurse, and whether to nurse or not should always be a mother’s personal decision – but no one’s breastfeeding journey should be cut short or doomed from the start because of a lack of proper support, information and help. Our societies don’t make breastfeeding easy. Nursing women are shamed, shunned, marginalized, pushed to toilets and alleyways to nurse out of sight, because we see breasts as a form of entertainment and an advertising tool rather than recognize and celebrate them for their ability to feed our children. It’s time to stop making breastfeeding even harder for women because of lack of proper support systems, policies, structures and lack of supportive environment – and time to start giving breastfeeding women everywhere in the world the recognition and support they deserve.

IMG_7889Before having my baby, I wrote an article titled “It Takes a Village to Breastfeed a Child”, but I didn’t truly understand how crucial breastfeeding support really is until I had my son. I’ve talked with women from around the world, and know our challenges and troubles are universal – I’ve met mothers who are going through the same feelings I’ve gone through, and I’ve even ended up breastfeeding another mother’s child when she wasn’t able to do so herself in that particular moment. So here is my message to you on the occasion of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week: Whatever you are feeling, whatever you’re going through, you are not alone. Ask for help, offer help, be a part of that global village – and whether you’ve nursed for a day, a week, a month, a year, or multiple years, be proud of yourself and be gentle to yourself. Breastfeeding is everything but easy, but we can make it so much better for ourselves by supporting each other, being kind to each other and encouraging each other.

And as for those moments when I feel like breastfeeding is too hard – luckily they are outnumbered by the good moments, when I look down on my child and see not only his hunger, but his pain, worries and fears melt away as he finds comfort and safety from nursing, from pressing up against me, from smelling my skin and my milk. Days like today when I look at him and I know: it is worth all the pain and trouble and it really does matter – every single drop of it.

Women Inspire: Onika Harris

This post is the fifth in a series of interviews from women and girls at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in Georgetown, Guyana.

I’m here in Georgetown, Guyana to conduct interviews with inspiring women and girls and to listen to their stories. Last week, I met Onika Harris (second from the left), 29, on a beautiful, sunny day when she was walking with her fellow nursing students across the GPHC compound. Full of laughter and joy, Onika and her friends could undoubtedly put a smile on anyone’s face.

What made you interested in becoming a nurse?

A: I have always wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. I’m really passionate about helping people.

What is your favorite part about being a nurse?

A: I love getting an up close view of the organs that keep us alive. It’s fascinating.

Who inspires you and why?

A: Dr. House on TV! I love him because he always gets the job done, no matter how difficult the case may be.

Why is women’s health important to you?

A: Women are 50 percent responsible for our future! Our health matters.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of in your career or in life?

A: I’m proud that I have made it this far in my career without help from my parents – financially, emotionally, or physically.

What are some challenges you have faced?

A: Money is a major barrier. But I try not to stress over it. What does stress accomplish?

What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to make a difference?

A: Go after what you desire. Not what others want for you.

Women Inspire: Romalia Black

This post is the third in a series of interviews from women and girls at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in Georgetown, Guyana.

I’m here in Georgetown, Guyana to conduct interviews with inspiring women and girls and to listen to their stories. Recently, I met Nurse Romalia Black in the GPHC emergency department. She graciously shared with me her story, her ideas, and her passions.

What made you interested in becoming a nurse?

A: When I was 7 years old, my grandfather suffered a stroke and I helped care for him alongside my family. I discovered I really enjoyed caring for him and making him feel better. A few years later, my friend fell ill with a serious infection. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to be a nurse so I could help care for people my entire life.

What is your favorite part about being a nurse?

A: I love to see people get well and being able to help and care for them.

Who inspires you and why?

A: I’m inspired by Dr. Gwen Frazer Tinnie, my teacher when I was a university student. Dr. Tinnie always went the extra mile not only for her students, but for her patients as well. Approachable and eager to answer our questions, Dr. Tinnie only wanted the best for her students – as well as her patients – staying after hours if necessary.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of in your career or in life?

“Women must stand up and say ‘Hey, I matter!’”

A: I’m extremely proud of my academic achievements and my family. When I went to university, I was pregnant and also worked a part-time job on the side. Now, I have two wonderful children and a successful career. I am proud that I did all that and have achieved where I am today.

What are some challenges you have faced in either your career or your life?

A: It is difficult to be a working mom, particularly at a hospital in a low-income setting. As a nurse, I strive to provide the highest quality patient care. However, when resources are unavailable or limited, I often must improvise and find different ways to provide the best possible patient care. When I think about what’s best for my family and what I want my children to achieve, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Why is women’s health important to you?

A: When women learn to respect and stand up for themselves, cases of domestic violence, abuse, and HIV/AIDS will decrease, improving women’s health and the economy simultaneously. Women must stand up and say ‘Hey, I matter!’

What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to make a difference?

A: If you love it, do it. Don’t begin on a career path just for the money. If you do, obstacles and challenges will pop up and irritate you. Nursing is hard work – it’s not easy. If you’re passionate about being a nurse and caring for others, do it. Do what you think is best for you and not what is best for somebody else.