Malawi Medical Journal

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Contextual issues that influence preparedness of nurses for critical care nursing practice in Malawi

Rodwell Gundo


There are no critical care nurse training programs in Malawi despite the high burden of diseases which culminate in critical illness. This paper presents contextual issues that influence preparedness of nurses for critical care nursing practice in Malawi. The qualitative findings presented are part of a larger mixed methods study which explored learning needs of critical care nurses as a way of informing the development of a training program for the critical care nurses in Malawi.
Interpretive descriptive design was used. Data were gathered through 10 key informant interviews with nurse leaders (n=8) and anaesthetists (n=2); and two focus group discussions with registered nurses and nurse midwife technicians working in intensive care and adult high dependency units at two tertiary hospitals. Transcribed data were analyzed manually and through the use of NVivo data management software utilizing Thorne’s steps of analysis1.
Being unprepared to work in intensive care and high dependency units was a dominant theme. Factors that contributed to this sense of unpreparedness were lack of educational preparation, organisational factors and workforce issues. The consequences of nurses’ perceptions of being unprepared were fearfulness, a change of nurses’ attitudes and elevation of risk to patients. The nurses managed unpreparedness by relying on other health professionals and learning on the job.
The findings illuminated contextual issues to be considered when developing programs for upskilling nurses in hospitals within Malawi and contributes to the developing body of knowledge related to nursing education and practice development within developing countries.
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