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September 2015 – Six specialist sick children’s nurses a year – so what difference could so few nurses possibly make?

I have been struggling to get my head round some of the facts and figures I’ve been given over the past two days.

Today I’ve been taken on a tour round the paediatric hospital by Dr Neil Kennedy; sadly seeing is believing.

The Children’s Hospital is part of Queens. Every year 100,000 children are seen in A&E and outpatients and 25,000 children are treated as inpatients on 7 wards.
 At any one time on average 75 children ( although it can be up to 100) can be cared for on just one of these wards. At busy times there may be two or even three children to a bed, some may even be cared for on the floor.
 Each ward is staffed by two nurses per shift. One nurse will have had basic training, the other a general nursing degree. There are currently NO specialist child health nurses.
The hospital is hoping to get six from the first cohort of twelve child health nurses that has just qualified, but this won’t even be enough cover for one per ward, never mind one per shift. AND THIS IS ONE OF THE FOUR MAIN HOSPITALS!
I can’t even remember counting how many nurses were on each ward I visited at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, they were just everywhere.   Can you imagine the scandal if the same the staff ratio applied here, or there was doubling up of beds, or nursing of children on a floor in the UK?
These specialist child health nurses will affect the lives not only of the children admitted to Queens, but more nurses with this qualification will mean that some can be sent to the 22 District Hospitals – who currently have even less access to paediatric trained nurses.
As Malawian mums tend to have large families that’s a lot of women and children. 
Change and improvement cannot take place without good leadership and that is what these nurses will provide.
As one of the nurse tutors we met yesterday commented ‘ Nurses never retire!’.  So we will be educating these women for life to empower them to enable the improvement of the lives of many thousands of women and children in Malawi.
Sharon and Neil
Dr Neil Kennedy and Sharon