Nursing as a noble profession is guided by a code of ethics and code of conduct. In fact, it takes someone with a kind heart and empathy to be able to care for the sick and the dying. No wonder it is often said, “Nursing is a calling.”
There are numerous government and private nursing institutions in Ghana that train people with
the interest to become nurses. As such, nursing students are seen in almost every corner of Ghana these days. It is easy to distinguish between female staff nurses and student nurses from their uniform. Whilst female staff have a full white armband on their uniforms, students have strips of white bands on their uniforms. The level or stage in which you are in school determines the number of white stripes on your uniform. However, a male staff is not so distinguished from male students as they all dress in the same manner.
|Image Courtesy GhanaWeb|
When I was a student nurse in one of the nursing training colleges in Ghana, I observed a very interesting trend. As part of the training, all students are supposed to go to hospitals and practically observe and perform most of the things that have been taught in school. This is done very frequently, at least not less than eight times during the training period.
Interestingly, whenever we go on clinical, I observed that the male staff nurses had a very “cordial” relationship with our female young student nurses as compared to us the male students. Sometimes you can be playing with your colleague female student nurse and a male staff nurse will jokingly tell you, “young man, be careful with the way you are playing with my wife.” We will all laugh about it and end it there. Whether that statement was true or not, I couldn’t tell because I was very naive at the time.
Sometimes, our colleague females were given food, money, drinks and gifts. These ladies sometimes had pity on us and invite us to partake in their food. This trend continued even after I completed school. So, I then developed the interest to know what actually happens.
When I was posted as a staff nurse in 2012, I started my investigations. I have worked in some government hospitals and through my investigations, I realized the story is not different from when I was in school as a student. Some male staff always give preferential treatment to female student nurses. The reason accounting for this is just a vague one.
During a personal encounter with some students and then colleague staff, it was revealed that female student nurses sometimes become victims to their senior colleagues due to one or two reasons.
According to some staff I encountered, students serve as a form of motivation for them at work whenever they come on attachment. Others say some of the students attach themselves to them very closely. Others say they are just entertaining them to make their stay ‘comfortable’ during the clinical period.
From the students’ perspective, “sometimes the seniors take advantage of our being in want,” says one female student. Another also said some of them have the mindset of meeting their life partners in the hospitals.
Hmm. Is this actually happening? Yes, some staff, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and laboratory technicians got their wives when they were students. This is however not the case with student nurses. Sometimes students are being deceived and slept with, in the name of a relationship. Afterwards, they dump these unfortunate ones to continue their search for life partners. Right from the medical doctor, matron, administrator, accountant, nurses, laboratory technicians, and records staff, there is no exception.
Once students arrive for clinical practice, it becomes a competition among some staff of the hospital. They are seen desperately moving from ward to ward, trying to get female students to court to their hungry beds. It is there that you will see a nurse giving a “friendly” but strong warning to a doctor to back off a particular student since he had already “picked the move”, as they fondly say.
The interesting thing is that most of the students also count themselves 'lucky' if they're being sought after by workers. So, it is not surprising to see students tightly hooked onto those who have expressed an interest in them to avoid other students from “interfering in their relationship.”
The big question is, what happens to their clinical practice as their minds are now divided? Can they learn with a divided mind? What happens to the competencies they are supposed to master before the clinical period is over?
Besides, are these staff single? No, some are even married. Are the students also single? Some have left their boyfriends and yet-to-be husbands at home. Yet, they agree to go into wacky relationships with staff as long as they are on clinical attachment.
A student once told her colleague that for her, she doesn’t go into relationships with her colleagues, since they can’t cater to her needs. She rather deals with staff that is already working and are on salary. Can you believe this? With this mindset, it is not surprising to see them always hanging around their admirers to prevent their colleagues from getting close. Sometimes, the staff even pick quarrels with one another because of female students.
When “boys boys” meet, discussions on these students arise. It is there that you will know who was successful in sleeping with which student and who was not, the number of students they slept with, the number of students who are “cheap” and those who are not, and so on and so forth.
The question also is, is this love real? When students leave, what happens afterwards? “Oh Charlie, they were just treated and discharged,” says some colleagues. This means the staff often don’t think about marriage. It is just for the fun of it. The students also have a mind of their own, and that is to get a life partner out of the relationship, although others also want to just have fun.
The code of conduct for health staff describes most of these instances as forms of harassment, which are punishable. Most workers seem not to be aware of this, even though the code of conduct is in every unit. Some are aware but think it can’t be applied to them. Others are simply ignoramuses who think they are doing nothing wrong. Even those to apply the code are morally bankrupt themselves. So, with nothing in place to check the effectiveness of this code of conduct, all will have to get on their knees in prayer to help halt the escalation of this situation.
Written By: Francis Appiah
The writer is a Senior Staff Nurse (SSN) with the Ghana Health Service.