Advanced Nurse Practitioners in Nigeria could help solve current Physician-to-patient ratio issue

As a Nurse practitioner student in the diaspora, I’m constantly asked what the role of a Nurse Practitioner is. I initially thought this was an ignorant question because why? Google is everyones friend.

So.. who is a Nurse Practitioner (NP), ahem — & how relevant can they be in a country like Nigeria where the Physician-to-patient ratio is 4:10,000 (WHO, 2015). Nurse Practitioners earn a Masters or Doctorate Degree with extensive clinical training. A NP must first earn a Bachelor Degree of Nursing (RN) before proceeding on to earn a Nurse Practitioner degree. I’ll encourage prospective students to apply to the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) since the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) made a commitment to move all entry-level nurse practitioners to the DNP degree by 2025. This could mean that individuals will have to earn a Doctorate in Nursing (DNP) to practice as Nurse Practitioner rather than just a Master of Nursing (MSN) after 2025.

Roles of a Nurse Practitioner include prescribing medications and other treatments, diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests, patient education and counseling (AANP, 2020).

Nurse Practitioners provide quality care in various settings such as public health departments, private practices, clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent cares and nursing homes (AANP, 2020). In regards to specialty, Nurse Practitioner can specialize in Pediatrics, Adult Health, Family, Neonatal, Oncology, Women’s Health and Psychiatric/Mental Health. Other sub-specialty areas for NPs include Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Dermatology, Orthopedics, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology and Emergency (AANP, 2020).

First, we must debunk this myth of “Doctor or nothing”. When a person tells you they are a Doctor, your next question should be Doctor of What? Doctor of Medicine? Doctor of Nursing? Doctor of Physical Therapy? Doctor of Philosophy? There are various kinds of Doctors. Also, there’s a chance that if you come across a Nurse practitioner with a Doctorate Degree, they’ll most likely introduce themselves a Nurse practitioner without the Dr. infront of their name and you could simply overlook these highly intelligent skilled individuals — Kafilat Shobajo

In Nigeria, the absence of Physicians in primary care and the increasing number of patients with different health needs already impose compelling circumstances on Nurses and Midwives to perform advanced duties — (Chimezie et al., 2019). I have seen Nurse practitioners work autonomously and run their private practice smoothly. I have seen Nurse practitioners and Physicians work collaboratively yielding to better patient outcomes so I believe Nigeria needs these individuals to help bridge the gap.

First, the Nursing curriculum in Nigeria must change. The role of Advance Practice Nurses in Nigeria is still in its infancy. Currently, only two roles are recognized; Nurse Anesthetist and Nurse Midwives (ICN, 2020). Advanced practice roles are extremely limited and expanding the curriculum and offering training for current Nurses to advance their careers is a place to begin.

Secondly, Nigeria should develop innovative ways to draw individuals into the field of Nursing and retain them. It’s funny when Nigerians complain about the amount of Nigerian Nurses abroad, it is a rewarding profession when a person has the passion and dedication. However, these qualities won’t be enough if a healthcare system and curriculum continue to fail its Nurses.

I would love to see more incentives or scholarships for current Nurses to advance their careers in Nigeria and other countries in the continent of Africa. I would love to see more men in the field of Nursing. I would love to see Nigeria training these Nurses rigorously with mandatory continuous education hours. I would love to see Advanced Nurses in Nigeria making decisions based on current evidence based guidelines. I would love to see a bridge in the primary care gap especially. I would love to see Nurse practitioners and Doctors working collaboratively in Nigeria. I would love every Nigerian to know who Nurse Practitioners are — Kafilat Shobajo

A Nurse Practitioner and Public Health professional dedicated to providing care for vulnerable populations & underserved communities.