"I am filled with joy knowing that I have the ability to impact children and improve their life."
A visiting nurse speaks about her profession, UNICEF training, and proper emergency response procedures.
Recent natural disasters and other emergencies have highlighted the heightened vulnerability of families with children in crisis situations.
To address these vulnerabilities, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported the development of a universal progressive model of home-visiting services for families with young children, known as UPMHVS.
Patronage nurses visit families, including pregnant women and young children, with a particular focus on high-risk groups that have specific medical or psychosocial needs.
With UNICEF support, the UPMHVS model was implemented on the primary health care level across all regions in 2019.
The successful operation of the UPMHVS requires not only available resources but also home-visiting nurse training. Based on the recommended ratio of one family doctor per 1,700 people, the total number of visiting nurses available to families should roughly amount to 11,200. As part of the UPMHVS implementation, UNICEF provided support for the education of visiting nurse master trainers and trainers.
From January 30 to February 3, 2023, UNICEF partners conducted a training program titled ‘Early Childhood Development in the Universal Progressive Model of Home-Visiting Services with a Focus on Crisis and Emergency Preparedness’ in Turkestan. The Scientific Center of Pediatrics and Pediatric Surgery and UNICEF collaborated to develop and conduct this training.
Aizharkyn is a visiting nurse who attended UNICEF’s training. Aizharkyn spoke about the importance of the nursing profession, her responsibilities, and the basic procedures of emergency response that she learned during the training.
Aizharkyn decided to dedicate her life to medicine in 2015. She has a deep love for her profession, and and she chose to pursue it professionally. Becoming a mother further strengthened her passion for nursing. Aizharkyn started her journey in medicine with a two-month internship in the children’s inoculation room of a local clinic. She gained valuable experience and knowledge about children’s immune systems and the health of young patients there.
She then worked as a nurse in the children’s department at a hospital in Zhetysay. Thanks to her previous experience working with children, she has no difficulty establishing trusting relationships with parents and answering all their questions regarding various paediatric diseases, preventive measures, and children’s immunization.
“My professional experience and my own motherhood help me understand a lot by merely looking in children’s eyes and at their facial expressions and smiles. As a mother of five, I treat every little patient as if they were my own. Working as a visiting nurse and closely interacting with children and their parents brings me immense happiness,” says Aizharkyn.
Both at work and in her personal life, Aizharkyn always strives to provide parents with detailed information about available opportunities and public services their children can access.
The distinguishing features of the UPMHVS programme include its universality, comprehensive coverage of families with pregnant women and young children, and progressive approach (where services are initiated by visiting nurses rather than solely on the patient’s request).
A visiting nurse assumes the responsibility of monitoring the newborn’s health during the first months of life. This profession requires the ability to administer first aid, recognize life-threatening symptoms, and implement a well-defined plan of action in various situations.
"My primary objective as a visiting nurse is to evaluate the child and family’s living environment. This enables me to better assess the overall situation: the child’s feeding patterns, the presence of any life-threatening factors, and whether the family has all the necessary provisions to support the child’s health and development," says Aizharkyn.
Considering the increasing likelihood of crisis situations, the visiting nursing system plays a crucial role in identifying families with heightened vulnerability during times of crisis. It also enhances the resilience of families with young children in emergency scenarios by equipping them with the essential knowledge, skills, and assistance required to navigate through crises successfully.
Aizharkyn firmly believes that education is a lifelong journey, and acquiring new knowledge and skills holds particular significance for healthcare professionals. This is precisely why she made the decision to participate in the training program.
“I often say that home-visiting nurses have the ability to bring the invisible to light. During home visits, we can assess not only a child’s physical condition but also their social, emotional, cognitive, and speech development. If necessary, we can refer them to specialized experts,” says Aizharkyn.
During home visits, Aizharkyn assesses whether all safety protocols have been adhered to and ensures that nothing poses a threat to the child’s well-being. From the very first visit, the visiting nurse carefully inspects areas that may potentially endanger the child. For instance, she verifies if the iron and its electrical cord are out of the child’s reach.
“During these home visits, I often come across instances where bedding and blankets are piled near the bed, which poses a significant risk to the child. The heavy heap of linen can unexpectedly fall on the child, impeding normal breathing or even bringing about fatal consequences. In such cases, we point out our concerns, provide warnings, and ensure that all our recommendations are implemented,” explains the nurse.
According to Aizharkyn, improper gas pipe connections are also a common hazard for children. The recommended distance between the foundation of a residential structure and a low-pressure gas line is 2 meters. Incorrect placement of gas pipes can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
"In the Zhetysai district, a centralized heat supply is often unavailable, so people resort to various solutions like electric heaters. We always stress the importance of their proper usage. For example, placing an iron heater directly on a wooden floor could lead to a fire," she explains.
Aizharkyn highlights that the improper use of extension cords is one of the frequent causes of fires. Extension cords are intended for the short-term connection of household appliances, and it is essential to unplug them from the socket immediately after use. She often encounters situations where multiple appliances, including chargers, are plugged into an extension cord for extended periods of time.
Aizharkyn told us about a typical case that vividly illustrates the significance of having trained home-visiting nurses.
"Recently, when I provided initial care to a newborn, a notable incident occurred. The family resides on the ground floor of an apartment building. When it got generally warmer in the region, the parents turned off the central heating and connected a gas-fired heating furnace. Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, the furnace’s exterior cracked and caught fire. I immediately brought this issue to the attention of the parents and urged them to fix it. A week later, I revisited the family to ensure that they had followed my advice. The baby’s mother was happy and thanked me for pointing the problem out," says Aizharkyn.
During her visits, Aizharkyn consistently educates parents about the necessary steps to take in case of an emergency. For instance, she emphasizes the importance of keeping all essential documents and a proper first aid kit with necessary medications readily accessible.
"After completing the training, I was once again reminded how important it was to provide all children with opportunities for development. I am filled with joy knowing that I have the ability to positively impact children and improve their quality of life. As both a home-visiting nurse and a mother of five children, I deeply desire a bright future for the children of Kazakhstan."