AL-HILLAH, Iraq — In the United States, nurses are usually the first people a patient sees when they go to a doctor's appointment. In Iraq, things are a little different.
At Babil Maternity Hospital, the doctors are the ones writing things down, taking a patient's vital signs and telling the nurses what to do.
"The nurses here aren't allowed to do some of the same things that nurses back in the U.S. are allowed to do," said 1st Lt. Betty Moore, general medical surgeon nurse, 10th Combat Support Hospital.
A medical symposium hosted at Babil Maternity Hospital July 26-29, highlighted some of the differences between Iraqi and American nurses, including education, practical skills and critical thinking skills.
"There isn't a standard for their educational requirements," said Moore, a native of Canyon Lake, Texas. "For example, there are some nurses here with a ninth grade education and then there are others who have a two or four-year degree from a local university."
"Nurses in Iraq have little opportunities to receive foreign education, but we do our best to learn as much as we can when the opportunity arises," said Neda'a Wahab, midwife and health researcher, Babil Maternity Hospital.
Practical skills vary among Iraqi and American nurses. The role of an American nurse is viewed as the primary person who deals with the patient. In Iraq, nurses follow the orders of the doctors and are limited as to what they can do with patients.
"A nurse in the U.S. has the initiative that many Iraqi nurses lack or are not allowed to use," said Capt. Sharon Owen, brigade nurse, Company C, 172nd Support Battalion. "For example, if a patient starts to have a problem, a nurse in the U.S. would start to assess the patient immediately. Here, the nurses would go find a doctor because they don't know what to do or aren't allowed to do anything."
To help reduce the number of differences, American nurses are helping by providing Iraqi nurses with additional skills and critical thinking training.
"The American nurses are here to help the Iraqi nurses by being a role model for the nursing profession," said Owen, a Cincinnati native. "Things have to change in Iraq. By educating and giving the nurses here some of the knowledge we have, we can start empowering the nursing profession."