Questions for Oluchukwu Ifele
This interview is one in a series introducing the people of iHRIS to the global iHRIS community. To nominate someone to be featured, please leave a reply below.
Oluchukwu Ifele is a registered nurse and a supervising administrator in Nigeria’s Nursing and Midwifery Council. She began using iHRIS in 2010.
Interview by Adam Gori
Tell me about your background and what you do now.
I am a nurse by training with a focus in nursing education and a specialty in midwifery. I work in the Updating, Licensing and Verification unit with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria. We are a regulatory body for nurses and midwives, responsible for promoting excellence in nursing education, research, administration and practice. I supervise the clerical staff that uses iHRIS to capture, process and store licensure data for Nigerian-trained nurses and midwives.
Why did you become a nurse?
One of my mom's sisters is a nurse. While I was growing up, anytime we were sick, my mom would take us to her, and she took care of us. My mom is a very strict person, but my auntie is so kind and caring. I remember thinking that I wanted to be like her, to have her serenity and her caring nature. I think that's what originally made me want to go into nursing.
Why do you think she was a role model for you?
There are two kinds of people in the nursing profession—people who do not do their work well and people who try as much as possible to do their work very well. She's among those people who tried to be very meticulous and do her job, I think, absolutely well.
When we were growing up, in the hospitals the nurses would bark at you. They did things forcefully. If you cried, they would tell you to be quiet, as if it's not natural for a child to be scared. My auntie was not like that. She was so different from what we used to see in the hospital. So that's part of what influenced me and I wanted to really be like her.
How did you transition from nursing to administration?
I was trained to be a nurse who can work in different areas in the nursing profession—to work bedside and as an educator. I also took some management courses and administration courses when I was in the university.
My current organization advertised a position to maintain excellence in nursing and midwifery in practice, education, research and administration. I really wanted the job. I believe in perfection, and I was of the opinion that I could do good in administration, that I could make a difference for my country there. And so far so good. I love my job.
You felt you could help improve the nursing system in your country working as an administrator.
Yes. As I said, I like perfection. When I saw the advertisement, I felt I could contribute to improve the education and practice in my country. That's why I applied for the job. I've had the opportunity to work in the wards. I've also had the opportunity to work as an educator in the schools, and I didn't really like what I was seeing. I felt if I could start working in administration, I could turn things around, change policies. And because my organization is also responsible for monitoring and accreditations, I felt I could make an impact in these areas where I feel we are not doing well.
What were some of the things that you saw that you didn't like or that you wanted to change?
For the practice area, there is a lot of negligence. We, as health professionals in Nigeria, tend to take lot of shortcuts, feeling that since our patients don't know, then we can just go scot-free from what we have done. And personally I didn't like it. That's not what I was taught. Let me give you an example. A nurse who is ordered to give a drug by noon will give it with the 2 o’clock medications, not at noon, feeling that it’s nothing, when you know that all the little things matter. They matter a lot. Or you are supposed to do a two-times-a-day dressing, but a caregiver decides to do it daily, which is wrong. It's those little things.
And for the education aspect, you still find people who say they are educators, who have the certificates, but they don't behave like educators. There is no discipline, there is no order. There is always that boundary between teacher and student, which people need to maintain so that there will be order and discipline.
All these, and more—it informed my decision to go into administration. I felt that if there were new measures and policies put in place, it will be harder for these kind of educators to do a lot of things they were doing.
What was it like in your office when you began work as an administrator? Your organization wasn’t using iHRIS yet, right?
There were very big registers. They were large books that contained the information of registered nurses and midwives. We were the custodians of those registers. We accessed the records manually, going through the registers and looking for the registration numbers.
Were you using a paper system exclusively, or were you also using spreadsheets on a computer system?
We just used paper. And these registers really are quite big. If you're not in the right state of health, I don't think you'll be able to lift them at all. Even the people who are healthy complain about it. My organization commenced a full computerization of our activities in 2010, and it was then that I got involved with iHRIS. I was among the first group of people to be trained in the use of iHRIS. Since switching to iHRIS, there is quite an improvement. We do things better. We do more things also. It has changed our job greatly. It has really improved our work, made it easier and given us time to do a whole lot of other things.
What do you want to achieve through your work?
My highest hope for my organization is to make our work easier and more efficient. That can be as simple as not having to carry heavy registers. Carrying those registers, they are not easy. I once had to work on a Saturday; there was nobody to help me with those registers. It’s hard work. Now, I just click my computer and I see what I'm looking for and effect the necessary changes.
My aspiration for my country is that everybody be aware of iHRIS and use it so that we can achieve a high degree of efficiency. Right now, there is a lot of unnecessary work. Let me give you an example. This afternoon a colleague from a regional office inquired about a registration number to verify a practitioner’s identity. I checked and found out that that person was not the owner of that license. Ideally, my colleague should not have had to call me. She should be able, wherever she is, to just click a button and get the information she needs. So there is work to be done.
You mentioned your aunt as a childhood role model. Do you have any role models right now?
Yes. There is another role model I have. She's my lecturer in the university, where I'm pursuing a Master's degree. I admire her a lot. She's like a moving force to me. Whenever I think of her, I say to myself, "Oluchukwu, you need to buckle up. You have not even started.”
She knows what she wants at every point. She always achieves it. That's mostly what I admire about her. It might take her a long time, but she will surely achieve what she has set out to achieve.
What are some of things that you want to achieve?
I want to do a lot of things. But first and foremost, I want to leave a legacy in administration.
What kind of legacy?
I want to leave a legacy of being sincere and straightforward, of not taking shortcuts. When you speak, everybody should know exactly what you mean. I also want to leave a legacy of policies that are implemented and enforced, that are not just on paper.
People in government are not straightforward. When you say, “This is black,” people need to know it’s really black. It’s all about being truthful in everything you do. For example, when we are talking about iHRIS and what we use it to do in my organization, people need to have faith in the information they get, to know that the data is correct and accurate. If we are being sincere and straightforward, it must reflect in everything we do.
What are some of the other things you want to achieve?
My ultimate ambition is to become a professor as well as a clinical nurse consultant. I want to bring changes. When I was in education—I was only there for four years, but I left an impact. Whenever I interact with patients or call clients, they tell me, “You're different.” That's the story I always want to hear.
How are you different?
I would say I’m empathic. I try to put myself in the other person’s situation. If you are empathic, you’re able to care for your patients better. I think I show my patients and clients the kind of care that is scarce around her. The care we give in this part of the world—they want to treat you like an object. They don’t acknowledge that you are a human being, and that this human being is made up of the physical, emotional and spiritual. You must consider these aspects when you want to care for somebody, really show caring.
Let me give you an example. I am pregnant. I’m carrying triplets. There are normal signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Since I am pregnant for three, these symptoms are, let me say, exaggerated. When I visit the doctor, I want to talk about things that are really worrying me: When these children come, how am I going to care for them? Will I be able to cope with caring for three? Will I be able to have enough rest? I would like to just talk about these things.
What I’m trying to bring out here is, if you want to really care for your patients or your clients, you just listen. The mere fact that you are listening will go a long way in alleviating the person’s problem. When you don’t listen, you tell the person, “Madam, you are just pregnant, and you are not the first person who has been pregnant in this world, even for three.” When you respond like that, you degrade the human being.
Why is that specific role, professor and clinical consultant, important to you?
It's for the patients. That's why it's important to me, because I must tell you, I'm not satisfied with the kind of care we give right now in Nigeria. I'm not criticizing, it's where we are. We'll move forward, I believe, but to me, I'm not yet satisfied at all, I'm not.
It sounds like, at your very center, you're a reformer. You use the word “perfection.” Are you an idealist, or do you feel you're a practical, pragmatic person?
I think I tilt towards the practical person. I'm very reasonable, realistic. I see things as they are. Many people don't want to see things as they are, that people don't do things right. As far as I'm concerned, if you don't acknowledge those things, you're not going anywhere. You're going nowhere. You're just going nowhere. So, that's the kind of person I am. I see things as they are. I don't know how to hold my counsel; I must tell you how I feel about something, even if it's bitter.
What's the most frustrating part of your work right now?
There are still people who want things to be the way they were before. That's true in the general public as well as in the bureaucracy. iHRIS is something that is still abstract to them. For us younger ones, it's not so abstract. We know this is what we want. But for the older ones, they still view it with a little bit of reservation. They want it the way it used to be. When we try to bring things forward, they tend to say, "We'll take it a little bit at a time." They’ll say, "You go through the normal process, take the due process." And what they mean by “due process” is that you must manually write something on paper and send it to various people for endorsements. It has slowed down the pace at which we are implementing iHRIS and in dispensing our duties.
What do you think is the solution to that?
The solution is just to keep telling them this thing is good, to make them to understand how it works. For example, you can do a demo for them. Now I think they are beginning to appreciate it. If somebody contacts me for information, while the person is still talking to me, I will just give the information they want. Previously, it was me going downstairs to the register room. Before, you’d tell the person, "Okay, I'll call you back in 10 minutes after I go downstairs." But now, I say, "Look here. Look at what I just found out," and they are beginning to become impressed with what they are seeing.
What's been the most rewarding part of your work with iHRIS?
When I was first introduced to iHRIS and did the iHRIS demo, I was just like, "Wow! Will this thing ever be possible here?" Then when we started using it, and I saw it was quite possible. It's just amazing, so exciting. It's as if somebody is performing magic. We saw these processes coming into reality; it was so fast, faster than we thought it was going to be. We just started implementing it, and we saw it was working. Now we are using it without problems. I was away on leave for a while this year, and the staff sailed through. So, I think it’s been a success for us and for me.
What would you say to someone who hadn’t worked with iHRIS or didn’t know anything about it?
My advice for people in my country is for them to know that it is possible, that they can do it. It's a big change, but at the end of the day, you find out virtually everybody can use it, and it works. So, my advice is for others to just know it is possible and that they can do it.
What are you most proud of?
I was privileged to be among the first people to be trained in iHRIS at my organization. When I assumed duty here, it could take a year or two years to process someone's application for renewal of license. One of my colleagues and I agreed we could make things move faster for this unit. We devised ways, using iHRIS and other processes, to make things faster and easier for everybody, and we were able to achieve it. When subordinates see their superiors working very hard, they behave like you also. So it's a new world. I want my subordinates to work hard and to try to touch the lives of people they are serving. That’s rewarding to me.