“You want to become a nurse? Why would you want to go into such a demeaning profession?” asked my uncle from Pakistan, who is a pathologist. That is the reaction I received from many family members that live there. I couldn’t help but wonder...why is nursing community so disrespected in my country?
Pakistan is a third-world developing country and is a patriarchal society where men are the authority figures. Families play a big role in the career choice of women. In that society, nursing is considered to be a disrespectful profession. It holds absolutely no prestigious value and is regarded as a blue-collar profession. Most of the time, nursing is not allowed to be a career option for many middle and upper-class families. When it comes to nursing, many apprehensions exist, but the biggest one is coming into contact with the opposite sex. This aspect is completely disregarded when a woman chooses to become a doctor. Becoming a medical doctor is one of the most prestigious professions in the country. If you are a doctor, you will get respect and status, as a nurse you will not.
This view of nursing has caused Pakistan to face a huge shortage of nurses. The nurse to patient ratio that exists in Pakistan is 1:3175; the same ratio in the US is 1:102 (Hasnain, 2010). This has led to a plethora of problems. Since there is discouragement to enter the profession, the enrollment in nursing schools is extremely low. There is an alarming increase in the number of women that leave the nursing profession early on. This is due to the harassment they receive from patients, family members, and other health professionals in the home and work environment. One nurse who works at a prestigious hospital in Pakistan stated, “Harassment is a major issue, and in many cases no action is taken against the harasser, resulting in the feeling of insecurity for the victim.”
Due to the lawlessness and corruption of the country, there is no justice for these women. On top of all this, the salary for a nurse in Pakistan is incredibly low. The average daily laborer in Pakistan earns $110-$160 per month, servants and the poor earn even less. A fresh medical doctor upon graduating makes approximately $700+ per month and the average nurse makes around $80-$190 per month. It is obvious why families do not want their women to enter this field; they have to deal with extremely low wages, a poor working environment, staffing issues, and harassment. The ones that do enjoy nursing often receive better opportunities in other countries, so they leave.
The Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC) controls and regulates nursing in Pakistan. They are responsible for: approving nursing schools for accreditation, coming up with the curriculum for nursing education, licensing nurses to practice, maintaining standards of education to practice, and maintaining an advisory role to the Federal and Provincial governments regarding nursing education and nursing services. They also communicate policy decisions regarding nursing to other parties. Besides the PNC, there are no other associations or groups that deal with nursing.
Other than a diploma or bachelor’s degree in nursing, there is no advancement in this career. In the entire nation, only one master’s degree program exists. It was established by Agha Khan University in 2001. Agha Khan is considered to be one of the top universities in Pakistan and is affiliated with many universities in North America. Each year, they admit 10 students into their master’s program but no advanced practice nursing options are available.
In Pakistan, nursing will always be considered a lowly profession until the society gives it the respect it deserves. For that change to become a reality, there desperately needs to be a cultural shift in people’s thinking. Knowing the situation of a nursing career in Pakistan, I do not have any regrets in choosing nursing as my profession.
I am very proud to be part of community of nurses because I am serving the needs of people in a way that brings me immense joy. No form of prejudice from anyone in Pakistan would ever make me reconsider my decision. Even though their prejudice feels incredibly overwhelming, I am able to tell my Pakistani family members that I consider nursing to be a very honorable profession.
By Deema Ahmad
ELMSN - FNP student
Samuel Merritt University
Hasnain, M. (2010, February 26). Allvoices.
Naved, A. (2011, February 05). The Express Tribune.
Sehrish, W. (2011, May 12). The Express Tribune.
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