Nursing Leadership Needed in Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Susan A. McMarlin, RN, BSN, MSN, EdD
Brooks College of Health, School of Nursing, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL
Donna A. Fritz, BSN, MSN
University of Sulaimaniyah, Sulaimaniyah, Iraq

Learning Objective 1: discuss at least three or more reasons contributing to the low status of nursing in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Learning Objective 2: describe three or more solutions other than strong nursing leadership which will improve the quality of nursing practice in the previously war torn region.

The media often portrays Iraq as war torn and a very dangerous place to live.  It comes as a surprise to foreigners to learn there is a large enclave in the northern part of the country, which is relatively peaceful. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is working to rebuild its infrastructure including the health care system. The people are largely Sunni Muslims who have their own language and culture inherited from ancestors who inhabited this mountainous region for thousands of years. They provided the only soldiers who fought side by side with Americans during the 2003 invasion. Prior to that time they were subjugated to bullets, bombs, and chemical attacks from Saddam Hussein’s regime.  After the Gulf War the United States, United Kingdom, and France declared the northern region off limits to Iraqi air craft. This allowed the Kurds opportunity to organize its own government and defense forces. In 2007 the US military turned over control of security to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Is there any wonder that Americans are welcomed in the region? The country once boasted an excellent health care system, but that is no longer the case. The system is badly in need of reform including the practice of nursing. In May 2008 the health minister announced that it is the joint responsibility of the government, nurses, health syndicates, and the entire society to improve the status of nurses. An American teaching nursing in a northern Iraqi university is acutely aware of the challenges. Mostly, there is a paucity of nurse leadership because of emigration and issues dealing with education, gender roles, confusing practice guidelines, intellectual isolation, incomplete equipment, and lack of user knowledge. The relative stability of the region now offers opportunities for improving nursing practices, but strong leadership in hospitals and universities are desperately needed.