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In Conversation: Gila Zarbiv, Israeli Midwives Association, and Sana Gul Baloch, Aga Khan Health Services, Pakistan

5 May 2022


This month marks the International Days of the Nurse and the Midwife. In this excerpt from THET’s 2022 COVIDPartnerships conference, we hear from Sana Gul Baloch and Gila Zarbiv on the importance of nurse and midwife leadership, the impact of the Nursing Now Challenge, and the lessons we can take forward from the pandemic to strengthen the global health workforce.

Sana Gul Baloch (SGB): What have the last few years of the pandemic been like for you and your colleagues in Israel?

Gila Zarbiv (GZ): I think that all of us globally and in Israel have been experiencing relatively the same thing. Early on in March 2020, the pandemic hit our shores like it hit everywhere else. Since then, we have been experiencing the need to adapt, to innovate, and to manage like the rest of the country and the rest of the world. It has been incredibly challenging, but we have learned a tremendous amount about our capabilities and our innovative abilities.

You and I both have the honour of being part of the Nursing Now Challenge. How do you feel that this has helped us, nurses and midwives, during the pandemic?

SGB: The Nursing Now Challenge (NNC) has made a ripple effect on the ocean, enhancing the visibility of nurses and midwives globally through international and local platforms. There are so many things that the NNC has been doing, including global solution initiatives. These are nurse and midwife-led initiatives where individuals can pitch in an idea in collaboration with other healthcare organisations or NGOs and they receive funding and support to turn that idea into reality. I would like to give credit to Nursing Now for this amazing initiative. Under this campaign, there are also leadership development courses for early career nurses and midwives and I have been part of many of them, including community mobilisation courses, immunisation advocacy courses, and leadership courses. I recently had the honour to be part of the Harvard launch of the NNC leadership courses for nurses and midwives. This brought in front of the world what nurses and midwives do everyday, and what they are capable of. Nursing Now has made it visible internationally that nurses, if given proper capacity building opportunities, are able to influence global health. Finally, taking part in events like THET’s COVIDPartnerships conference and coordinating with other colleagues internationally is one of the best things that I gained from the NNC.

Gila, what value do you place on being able to talk to colleagues internationally as well as locally? Does this international lens give you insight that you might not otherwise have, and is there anything else you have gained from this exposure?

GZ: A lot of terrible things came out of COVID-19, but a lot of beautiful things came out of it as well. For example, platforms such as these, THET, Nursing Now, Midwives in Focus, the ability for us to collaborate and cooperate across oceans is something that we have never had the opportunity to do before. Through the NNC, we had support sessions for midwives who were struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic from America all the way to Israel. And beyond this, we were able to discuss practical challenges – how are you managing? Where are you getting your equipment from? It opened doors and opened communication, collaboration and cooperation on a level that never existed before. I also think that international collaborations allow midwives a platform and a voice with regards to research, leadership and education that they weren’t able to have up until this point. We need it to continue in this way.

This is the third and final conference organised by THET which is focused on COVID. From the perspective of nurses and midwives, what’s the most important thing that you think our international audience can do as we emerge from this pandemic?

SGB: I think that this is a very important question. The pandemic has not only created challenges, but also provided a focused view of nurses and midwives and their experiences on the front line. This recognition needs to continue. Now the world should know that nurses and midwives are the backbone of healthcare. I would request all of you to listen to the nurses and midwives working in your organisation. Give them a space to talk, give them a space to share their ideas, value their ideas when you give feedback because they are the direct healthcare providers: 80% of direct patient care is given by nurses. Create opportunities for them, revise your policies that are not flexible enough to give them space for career development or further study. Give them opportunities to develop their skills and go beyond traditional roles and engage them in the decision making tables. Nurses are capable of doing it all. I would request all leaders to increase the visibility of nurses at the table and give their voices value.

GZ: I cannot agree with you more and I think we can conclude by saying that this pandemic taught us that in front of every birthing woman was a midwife. In front of every birthing woman was a nurse. In front of every patient in the ICU was a nurse. We need more nurses and midwives in government, we need more nurses and midwives in policy, we need more nurses and midwives in research. Thank you for having us.

Gila Zarbiv is a senior certified nurse midwife from Israel with a master’s degree in women’s health. She is a PhD candidate and is also the head midwife for infectious disease prevention for the labor and delivery ward. Gila delivered the first COVID-19 positive birth in Israel and since then has been the head midwife responsible for leading COVID-19 management, protocol, and implementation.

Sana Gul is a community health nurse working with Aga Khan Health Services in Pakistan to provide services in health prevention and promotion in remote and urban communities through health screening, vaccination, immunization, dental checks and telemedicine. She is also the co-chair of the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Hub of the Nursing Now Challenge.

"Now the world should know that nurses and midwives are the backbone of healthcare. I would request all of you to listen to the nurses and midwives working in your organisation."

Sana Gul Baloch

This post was written by:

Sana Gul Baloch - Gila Zarbiv


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