Father embraces his daughter.

Celebrating nurses worldwide on International Nurses Day

May 2018

This International Nurses Day, Alex Duffy, Advocacy Officer celebrates nurses worldwide and talks through how they have made a difference to eye health.

Did you know that nurses provide 90% of all healthcare services in the world? However, whilst they are critical to ensuring that people can access the care they need, nurses are often the unsung heroes of global health.

Today is International Nurse’s Day, and we are honouring the work of the incredible nurses that are transforming lives by preventing and treating avoidable blindness.

At Orbis, our training – through the Flying Eye Hospital and hospital based programmes - builds the capacity of the entire eye health team – of which nurses are a critical part.

For example, in Trinidad and Tobago, we’ve partnered with the University of the West Indies St Augustine and the University of the West India School of Nursing, to launch a pilot nursing initiative. We’re enhancing nurses’ knowledge and skills with specialist ophthalmic training, improving patient outcomes and producing better long-term results for vision.  

Angeline Chaipa, nurse volunteer, on the Flying Eye Hospital

Angeline on the Flying Eye Hospital

Last year, volunteer nurse Angeline Chaipa joined the Flying Eye Hospital in Vietnam, building the capacity of local nurses to provide recovery care to patients. Angeline worked alongside local trainee nurses to enhance their practical skills caring for patients after glaucoma and oculoplastics surgery.

The theme of any Orbis programme is to enhance and empower local nurses and doctors to improve their knowledge of treating ophthalmic conditions. I feel so privileged and proud to be part of the Orbis team, helping to prevent and promote public eye health in the world.

Nurses are also critical in helping the eye health system to work effectively. In the Copperbelt Province in Zambia, as well as building the capacity of specialist paediatric ophthalmologists and other health workers at Kitwe Eye Annexe, we’ve worked to improve the quality of services at the primary and secondary health care levels, by training staff inducing ophthalmic nurses.

By empowering staff closer to the local communities to identify and treat ailments, the hospital at Kitwe Eye Annexe can focus on more complex eye conditions, such as cataracts. Nurses ensure patients can receive the care they need, where they need it.

In Ethiopia, we are training primary health workers in eye care, including trachoma control. In areas across Southern Ethiopia, we establish and strengthen primary eye care units within government health facilities and give nurses specialist training in primary eye health so they can become Integrated Eye Care Workers.

There are over 900 Integrated Eye Health Workers in Ethiopia and these nurses are critical to providing services in hard to reach areas. They can diagnose patients with trachoma and perform trachomatous trichiasis surgery, and can refer patients with other eye health conditions (like cataract) to secondary eye care units for treatment.

Integrated Eye Care Worker Tsehay at the Gamo Gofa Zada Health Clinic in Ethiopia

Nurses provide so much to their communities. In South Omo in Southern Ethiopia, ophthalmic nurse Hawlet works tirelessly to save sight at the secondary eye unit at Jinka General Hospital, alongside a cataract surgeon and three other nurses. However, she’s also recently been part of a team carrying out a Trachoma Impact Survey in the region, assessing whether or not the prevalence of trachoma has declined after three rounds of distributing the treatment drug Zithromax.

Around the world, nurses are key to making healthcare accessible to those that need it most, but have often been under-valued and their skills under-utilised. Through specialist training, Orbis works to empower nurses and enhance their skills so they can transform lives by fighting avoidable blindness.

As we work to advocate that eye health becomes a priority, we ask that governments globally invest in all eye health workers, including ophthalmic nurses. We cannot achieve eye health for all without them.