Leaders of Change – Dr. Myrna Doumit
Dr. Myrna Doumit, 55, is the first President of the Order of Nurses to be elected in Lebanon (her predecessors won by acclamation).
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Lebanon in February 2020, Dr. Myrna Doumit, President of the Order of Nurses has been extraordinarily busy; leading on national COVID-19 relief efforts while fighting for nurses to get the recognition and support they deserve as front-liners during the pandemic as well as in the aftermath of the Beirut blast.
In the context of a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, at a time where hospitals and ICUs across the country are breaking at the seams, nurses have been facing ongoing challenges and are living in constant fear of being asked to leave their work by their employers. According to Dr. Doumit, nurses were not provided with enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks when dealing with COVID-19 patients at the beginning of the pandemic. Given the economic crisis, nurses would also work long hours without monthly wages and face salary reductions in hospitals that could not afford to pay salaries in full. In some settings, nurses with suspected exposure to COVID-19, have been asked to self-quarantine without pay.
The Order of Nurses, along with other NGOs in Lebanon, is a Founding member of a committee which developed the criteria for opening isolation centers and guidance for operations all over Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Dr Doumit, the Order also provided support in training sessions given to municipalities on dealing with COVID-19 cases. Dr. Doumit also launched a social media campaign to educate nurses as well as the public on COVID-19, and contributed to initiatives aiming to streamline care of COVID-19 patients and decrease pressure on emergency services. But all this has also meant incredible pressures being put on the nursing profession.
“I am trying my best to keep nurses in the country,” she explains. “The pandemic and the economic crisis financially-affected nurses heavily, so I am trying to create a better working environment for them.” The Order of Nurses has led strikes to pressure hospitals to pay nurses their dues, secured hotel rooms for nurses who tested positive for COVID-19 and supported nurses who have been laid off due to the economic plight to find new work.
Support for nurses is critical, she points out, “According to WHO, an additional 9 million nurses and midwives are needed by 2030.” Dr. Doumit notes that historically, nursing has been considered a “woman’s profession,” but recently, the numbers are evolving with more men studying to be nurses at university. “We are working in a male-dominated world, but we are not against men being our partners.” With females making up 80% of nurses in Lebanon, she believes there is room for males to participate more in the nursing field. “The nursing profession needs both male and female nurses; they should be 50-50.”
Dr. Myrna Doumit, 55, is the first President of the Order of Nurses to be elected in Lebanon (her predecessors won by acclamation). She was a former founding Faculty member and Assistant Dean at LAU (until December 2020) and faculty member at the AUB School of Nursing (until January 2011). She is a member of two ministerial committees on breast cancer and palliative care and represents Lebanon in the Scientific Committee for the Nurses and Midwives Arab Board where she is a vice-president. She is the recipient of an award from the International Society of Nursing Cancer Care in the field of breast cancer in 2018.