Ebahi Ikharo, PhD student and Hillman Scholar, recently went to Namibia to help design a tool to identify and improve compliance issues in hospital maternity wards. She came back to NC with some insights on nurses’ mental health.

Supported by the UNC’s IntraHealth Summer Fellows Program, Ikharo spent 3 weeks working with the Nursing Now campaign in Namibia, collecting data in maternity wards across 5 different hospitals. Namibia’s Ministry of Heath is using the data to create a tool to assess compliance with standards and recommendations for areas of improvement – an effort that will lead to better patient outcomes.

While there, she had the opportunity to interview nurses about work-related stress factors and how it can affect their mental and physical health, finding that exhaustion and stress in the face of the well-documented nursing shortage has consequences, such as burnout and preventing nurses from pursuing their career goals. In her article for Intrahealth, Ikharo proposes that mindfulness-based stress reduction(MBSR) programs could mitigate some if these effects, “Nurses in low- and middle-income countries cannot continue to push the profession forward if they are burnt out. For nurses to continue to work in stressful settings, we must begin to think about their holistic health and how it affects their ability to carry out care.” She also takes a broader perspective on the issue, noting that, “interventions like these won’t erase the critical need for staffing and other resources that are necessary to carry out optimum care”.

Ikharo’s multi-level approach is a shining example of nursing science in 2020, the Year of the Nurse.

Ebahi Ikharo is a UNC School of Nursing PhD student and Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation. Her research is focused on the effects of biological, psychosocial and environmental frameworks that affects the cardiovascular health of black women living in the United States and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Read more about her work in Namibia here, and her article on mindfulness is available here.