Pakistan’s first-ever doctorate in nursing has been awarded by the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM) to Ms Khairulnissa Ajani.
As part of her PhD, Ms Ajani conducted original research into hypertension or high blood pressure – a condition that affects one in three adults in Pakistan. Her study developed an intervention to evaluate how well behaviour change strategies could help patients better manage their health.
Ms Ajani’s research found low levels of physical activity and poor adherence to a hypertension-friendly diet amongst people with high blood pressure. Interestingly, women tended to focus more on their family’s well-being while neglecting their own. Her study also emphasises the importance of family support in encouraging a patient to take care of his or her health.
“Developing family support is key to enhancing the health of patients,” Ms Ajani said. “Healthcare providers have to develop practices that raise awareness about hypertension in both the patient and their families.”
The study also found that nurses can play a key role in developing a positive relationship with patients, which can help promote a deeper understanding of the need for self-care. It highlighted the need for professionals to move away from traditional health education strategies designed for the public towards individual more personalised healthcare regimes.
SONAM is the first institution in Pakistan to launch bachelor’s, master’s and PhD qualifications in nursing, opening up research, academic and teaching careers in the profession. Before the launch of these degree programmes, nurses could only aspire to study for diplomas, which limited their careers to clinical practice in public- or private-sector hospitals.
Ms Ajani has been associated with SONAM since 1997 and also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School. She was the first candidate to enrol in the School’s PhD programme, which was launched in 2015, and currently serves as Assistant Dean of teaching, learning and undergraduate programmes at SONAM.
“Completing a doctorate is a personal milestone and a reward for years of hard work spent on making a substantial contribution to one’s field,” said SONAM Dean Professor Rozina Karamaliani.
“It was the University Chancellor’s vision that nursing in Pakistan can only be improved when nursing professionals can undertake and contribute to locally relevant, evidence-based research for Pakistan through their master’s and PhD studies. This will lead to better healthcare outcomes for the country which can potentially transform the health of our population.”
A total of eight faculty members at the School hold PhDs from top nursing schools in the US and Canada.