May 12 marks International Nurses Day, celebrated to observe the contributions that nurses make to society. This year, Rwanda took a different approach regarding observing the day. Instead of typical celebrations, the focus was on addressing a pressing issue that has been plaguing the nursing community: the lack of research resources. ALSO READ: 70% nurses work over 60 hours a week – trade union Under the global theme ‘Our Nurses. Our Future’, Rwanda acknowledged the vital role of nursing students in shaping the future of healthcare service delivery. However, the current state of research in the nursing field has posed significant challenges, according to Madeleine Mukeshimana, an associate professor and researcher at the University of Rwanda. Mukeshimana emphasised that the high costs associated with research and the limited time available for students to undertake research projects have hindered progress. Furthermore, the nursing community still faces capacity constraints and a shortage of research materials. To address these issues, a concerted effort has been made to prioritise mentorship for nursing students, enabling them to embrace evidence-based practices and navigate their careers more effectively. During mentorship sessions, experienced professionals not only provide guidance but also assist students in applying for financial research grants. These grants aim to alleviate the financial burden on aspiring researchers, allowing them to explore innovative healthcare solutions and contribute to the advancement of nursing knowledge. ALSO READ: How perinatal, neonatal care programme is saving lives Nevertheless, challenges persist, particularly in the areas of low enrolment in midwifery and mental health nursing. Providence Umuziga, Chairperson of the Board of Directors at the National Council of Nurses and Midwives and a professor at the University of Rwanda acknowledges the need to address this issue head-on. Umuziga stressed the importance of ethics, professionalism, and dedication in the nursing profession, as nurses are entrusted with the lives of individuals on a daily basis. The Council is advocating for better compensation, benefits, and recognition for the invaluable work nurses do. Embracing new trends and innovations is also a priority to equip graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their roles. Andre Gitembagara, the African representative of the International Council of Nurses Board, emphasised that while gaps within the nursing community persist, it is essential to acknowledge the progress made in Rwanda. Over the past 29 years, the number of nurses has significantly increased, from a mere 400 in 1994 to more than 14,500 today. This remarkable growth reflects the country’s commitment to developing the nursing profession. Furthermore, Gitembagara highlighted the expansion of nursing education, where students can now pursue studies up to a PhD level. This shift has led to a greater emphasis on research, with a focus on generating evidence-based practices and innovative healthcare solutions. However, the low number of students enrolling in bachelor’s degree programmes remains a concern. The high costs of nursing education, amounting to over Rwf15 million, deter many prospective students from pursuing this rewarding career path. Additionally, the relatively modest pay rates for nurses in Rwanda can take several years to recoup the investment in their education, further discouraging potential candidates. ALSO READ: Experts call for more investment in midwifery and nursing To address these challenges and ensure the future of nursing, greater investment in nursing education and scholarships is crucial. The voices of nursing students were amplified during a symposium held on May 11, which saw over 350 professionals in nursing and midwifery, including professors, nurses, doctors, university and high school students, and various stakeholders, coming together to advocate for change. Etienne Numviyumukiza, a nursing student at the University of Rwanda and the president of the Nursing Research Club, expressed the desires and aspirations of the nursing student community. Mentorship, training, and internships rank among their top priorities. To combat service delivery issues, students actively engage in research to address healthcare challenges and intervene accordingly. By conducting thorough research and community interventions, nursing students are determined to break the cycle of subpar service delivery. In Rwanda, the nursing community plays a pivotal role in healthcare institutions, with over 13,000 practicing nurses currently serving the population. However, the need for enhanced resources and support is evident. The collective call to action emphasises the urgency to invest in nursing education, provide scholarships, and foster an environment conducive to research and professional growth.