By Sharmain Cornette
The issue of adequate teaching staff will have to be addressed even as the Ministry of Health prepares to train an increased amount of nurses this year. Minister within the Health Ministry, Dr Bheri Ramsaran, alluded to this fact even as he noted that 250 nurses were trained last year and about 430 the previous year.
And since much emphasis is being placed on the training and ‘scaling up’ of professionals in the public health system, Dr Ramsaran related that the Ministry will be looking to the Nurses and Midwives Associations to lend their support.
The Ministry of Health has three nursing schools – the Georgetown School of Nursing, the New Amsterdam School of Nursing and the Charles Roza Nursing School – all of which have need for an added faculty given the move to increase students’ intake.
“Over the past few years we have significantly increased our intake of nurses.
That is a challenge in itself. However, the significant increase is something to boast about but the challenge is where do we get the expanded faculty from? We understand that the more nursing students you have, a wider collection of trained persons to teach them will be required.”
And much has been invested in the area of training, Dr Ramsaran said, adding that the administration is serious about creating a modern health workforce with adequate numbers. Until the requisite faculty is available, the Minister said that efforts will have to be made to utilise available resources, which are admittedly poor in Guyana, in a beneficial manner. Entities such as the Nurses Association, he related, could play a major role by looking at and helping other agencies involved in the training of nurses. In addition, he said that one innovative measure could be the staggering of the classes.
“We have for example large classes now and the tradition is that the classes will start in the morning and end sometimes in the early afternoon as in the public school system. We should start thinking and urging the managers of the nursing training programme to adopt the way it is done in other jurisdictions where programmes are staggered. “
By staggering programmes, Dr Ramsaran said that nursing schools will be able to use scarce faculty that will not be available during standard school hours but available at off peak hours.
“Right now Guyana is benefiting from a surge of young doctors. They of course can release more senior medical practitioners to deliver lectures and courses in nursing schools. This is happening at the Georgetown Public Hospital.”
And since more nurses are expected to be trained this year, the Minister noted that measures must be put in place urgently if the sector is able to produce the amount of nurses that will be required. Further he disclosed that the clientele that the sector is required to serve is becoming more demanding even at the more established hospitals.
“We still continue to have negative and embarrassing events which rock the nation because they are easily reported now. Because of cell phones…you have something coming out of Lethem or Mabaruma and that goes into an unsympathetic section of the media and the next morning it is online.”
However, with hospitals’ boosted capacity, such situations are likely to reduce considerably. Complaints of a shortage of tutors at nursing schools had been brought to the attention of Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy by this newspaper. He had however ruled that situation out as a problem.
“This was presented to me in 1998 and I was unconvinced then and I am even more unconvinced today because we have more than 1500 nurses in the country, we have some very experienced nurses that can teach…we have doctors. Let’s say we have to teach anatomy, who says that it must only be a nurse to teach that? We have all of these doctors and everybody is looking to do something additional, we could change our class style to utilise the personnel we have,” the Minister asserted.
He divulged that many classes in nursing, medicine and science in the developed countries are taught by part-timers, adding that some people have chosen to be resistant to this development locally.
Further concerns surrounding the nursing programme include disclosures that applicants are allowed to enter the programme despite the fact that they do not have the requisite qualifications. But according to the Minister, such should not be the case as “more often than not persons with eight subjects at CXC do not want to do nursing. They want to go on a scholarship to Cuba.”
“When we insist on young people having English and Mathematics to enter, we are putting up barriers. In 1998 I asked that the curriculum be changed so that it included English and Maths so that when young people enter the nursing school they can learn those subjects as well.”
According to the Minister, there are thousands of young people who apply for the nursing programmes, but do not have Maths or English and in some cases both, and are told that they do not qualify.
“I changed that law. They said it was in the law and I proved that many of them who were saying that that can’t happen, they themselves got the chance to go to nursing school without the full qualification and became great nurses and now they want us to stop it?”
However, it was in wake of the increased number of students applying and entering the Georgetown School of Nursing without the requisite qualification that it was observed that the re-sit level of examination had increased.
Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry, Hydar Ally, had told this newspaper that the Ministry was observing with much concern the unacceptable re-sit rate of students. It was disclosed to this newspaper that out of a class of 54 students training to become staff nurses, a mere 14 had passed the requisite three-segment examination.
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