By Reena Kumar
A NEW pilot scheme in Luton is hoping to encourage more south Asians to enter into careers in midwifery and nursing.
Dr Nasreen Ali, senior research fellow at the Institute for Health Research, at the University of Bedfordshire, told Eastern Eye that perceptions and knowledge of the two professions needed to be improved among the Asian community as well as perceptions towards its status.
She has been leading an outreach programme where she has been joined by members of her team who are going out into the community and speaking to current and prospective students, and course leaders about their experiences.
“Ensuring that the healthcare workforce is as diverse as the community it serves has become important because there is evidence that suggests that culturally responsive nursing is linked to improvements in cost management, quality of care for patients, patient safety and better outcomes,” Dr Ali said.
She added that Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indians were over-represented in medical and dental fields but underrepresented in nursing and midwifery.
The scheme follows recommendations from research carried out last year which was funded by Health Education England.
It found that several students highlighted racial and religious discrimination in the application, recruitment and selection process on courses, employment, and career progression and from non-Muslim patients in hospitals.
Dr Ali added that students said they felt undermined by staff during their placements because of their religion, age and lack of experience.
In response, the report recommended that universities should review the diversity of nursing and midwifery admissions and interviews and attitudes of teaching staff.
“It is important that BME staff see visible role models who have made progress within the NHS and there should be easy access to mentoring schemes,” Dr Ali said.
The study also exposed views in the Asian community that nursing and midwifery were “low status” jobs compared to medicine, law and accountancy, and paid poor salaries with long working hours and shift work.
Sofina Aktar, a midwife who took part in the project, revealed that she chose her career after hearing about family members who were “mistreated” by midwives and struggled to communicate their needs because of language barriers.
“That was the driving force, I wanted to make a change, I wanted to work in my community and take care of women and show them that midwives can be nice, caring and loving. For me, being bilingual was a bonus, I was able to relate to women in ways that the majority of my colleagues couldn’t.”
Aktar added that as a Muslim woman, she helped women of her faith feel at ease about praying whilst in labour.
“I am able to encourage and remind the patient to call to Allah for help, remind her of the reward she will get for going through such difficulty, and pray with her, this is so important for a Muslim as in the most difficult moment in her life she is calling to the One who can give her ease.”