-the aim is to restore integrity of nursing
Historically, Guyana’s nursing programme has had significant accolades. This has translated to graduates being highly sought after across the world. However, recent developments have caused the quality of the local nursing programme to come under intense scrutiny since its integrity has been seriously questioned.
This state of affairs was yesterday amplified by Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, as she addressed a strategic workshop aimed at strengthening nurses’ education and practice for success in Guyana.
According to the Minister, the expectation is that standards of acceptable performance will be adhered to and the public trust will be safeguarded.
“It is because of these expectations that we have to ensure that the health care professionals who are placed in the system have been certified using a programme that has effective quality management embodied in every aspect of the training and assessment process,” Minister Cummings asserted.
In an effort to provide health care of optimal quality, the Minister noted that the assessment strategies must conform to rigorous and specific standards. “It would be unethical to deviate from these standards for any conceivable reason. I must reiterate that this position means that everyone is accountable. We have to take a tough stance on the issue of dishonesty, lack of integrity, and indiscipline that has besmirched our health education and training,” asserted Minister Cummings.
Moreover, the move to conduct the workshop, according to the Minister, was premised on the fact that “the apparent paucity of robust quality assurance measures has resulted in unsavory and unscrupulous actions perpetrated by a selfish dishonorable few seeking to bring our nursing programme into disrepute.”
This situation, Minister Cummings said, must never be allowed to happen again. “As we review the entire nursing programme with the aim of strengthening it for broader success across the board, let us all recommit to working assiduously to improving the quality of nursing education we provide,” the Minister underscored.
In the quest to improve the quality of nursing education, the Minister stressed the need for nurses to be able to receive higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
As she qualified the need for an improved nursing education system, Minister Cummings noted, “In today’s world where patient needs and care environments have become more complex, our nurses need to attain the requisite competencies to deliver high-quality care.”
These competencies include leadership, health policy, system improvement, research, and evidence-based practice. But according to Minister Cummings, “these priceless skills must be complemented by teamwork and collaboration as well as competency in specific content areas such as community and public health and geriatrics.”
The Minister noted the need for the development of new approaches and educational models to respond to burgeoning information in the field of nursing.
In so doing she considered that competencies will have to move from task-based proficiencies to higher-level competencies that provide a foundation for care management knowledge and decision-making skills under a variety of clinical situations and care settings.
Further, she pointed out that emerging new competencies in decision making, quality improvement, systems thinking, and team leadership must become part of every nurse’s professional formation.
“As we seek to enhance the quality of the nursing education programme, the focus must be on competency-based learning that embodies quality assurance measures, said Minister Cummings.
“Nursing schools must also instill in students the spirit of inquiry, so that after graduation from the basic nursing programme, lifelong learning is sustained with continuing nursing education.”
But according to the Public Health Minister, the emphasis in nursing education is sometimes perceived to be on preparing students for their nursing exams alone.
However, the Minister made it clear, yesterday, that “we must recognize that the licensure exam is a minimum standard…it tests only for minimum safe competency.”
“The public wants more than that. They want optimal competency, especially in the specialized areas. We have to move beyond the notion of creating nursing programmes that produce graduates who demonstrate that they are minimally competent,” said Minister Cummings.
She stressed that being able to assess what health care professionals can do, and not what they know, describes the commonly known gap between test takers who have difficulty performing a procedure or recognizing warning signs in a patient experiencing difficulty, and decision makers who can function in crisis situations on the wards and at patients’ bedsides.
According to the Minister, as the health care system refines, quality assurance and quality improvement standards and the accountability of the individual care providers will have to intensify. She pointed out that “increased accountability has become a common theme in modern society.”
“When the public good relates to health care, the expectation is that standards of acceptable performance are clearly defined by regulatory and professional bodies.”
It is the view of the Minister that quality assurance must be embedded in the teaching strategies, in the assessment procedures, and in the curriculum.
Added to this, she noted that there must be alignment between what is espoused and enacted through the curriculum and what the students experience and learn. “There must be congruence between training and education of our nurses so that we can be confident of the skills they possess. Quality assurance methods can help health programme managers to define clinical guidelines and standard operating procedures, to assess performance compared with selected performance standards, and to take tangible steps towards improving programme performance and effectiveness,” the Minister stressed.
Every year, the Guyana School of Nursing produces nurses, who according to the Minister, are trained, highly skilled and qualified. These are nurses who work diligently in our public health care system, in a variety of capacities.
She added, “We must acknowledge that nursing is a tough profession. However, it is a noble one. And while it can be physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding at times, it is also very rewarding. We at the Ministry of Public Health salute every one of our hard-working nurses that serve selflessly all across the country.”
The Ministry was able to bring to fruition the workshop with the support of its technical partners, the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation [PAHO/WHO]. PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr. William Adu Krow, was tasked with delivering a presentation to the participants at the Pegasus Hotel, the venue of the workshop.
“This exercise today is indeed a step in the right direction for enhancing the quality of nursing education provided by the Ministry of Public Health. At the end of this strategic engagement, Minister Cummings added, “I am confident that comprehensive quality assurance measures would have been identified to be implemented so as to ensure that our nursing programme returns to the epitome of excellence it once was.”
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