By Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 5, 2009 - In the United States, patients typically see a nurse or technician first at a doctor's appointment, but the same does not hold true in Iraq. In Iraq, doctors normally are in the lead. They write down a patient's history, take vital signs and direct the nurses.
"The nurses here aren't allowed to do some of the same things that nurses back in the U.S. are allowed to do," said Army 1st Lt. Betty Moore, general medical surgeon nurse for the 10th Combat Support Hospital.
A medical symposium at Babil Maternity Hospital in Iraq's Babil province July 26 to 29 highlighted the differences between Iraqi and American nurses, including education, practical skills and critical-thinking skills.
"A nurse in the U.S. has the initiative that many Iraqi nurses lack or are not allowed to use," said Army Capt. Sharon Owen, brigade nurse for Company C, 172nd Support Battalion. "For example, if a patient starts to have a problem, a nurse in the U.S. would start to assess the patient immediately. Here, the nurses would go find a doctor, because they don't know what to do or aren't allowed to do anything."
Iraq lacks an educational standard for nurses, said Moore, a Canyon Lake, Texas, native. "For example," she explained, "there are some nurses here with a 9th grade education, and then there are others who have a two- or four-year degree from a local university."
Iraqi nurses have limited opportunities to receive foreign education, said Nedaa Wahab, the hospital's midwife and health researcher. "But we do our best to learn as much as we can when the opportunity arises," she said.
To boost their capabilities, American nurses are teaching Iraqi nurses additional skills and critical thinking.
"The American nurses are here to help the Iraqi nurses by being a role model for the nursing profession," said Owen, a Cincinnati native. "Things have to change in Iraq. By educating and giving the nurses here some of the knowledge we have, we can start empowering the nursing profession."
(Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little serves in the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)