By PAT DIAL
Kaieteur News – Of recent years, the conditions of nurses and of the nursing profession have been highlighted largely owing to the expressed concerns of Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony, who has always pointed out the essential role nurses play in the delivery of an effective National Health Programme.
There are a number of factors which negatively affect the nursing profession and among these are the conditions of service, including remuneration, and the fact that so many nurses leave every year, putting an extra burden on those who remain in service.
The emigration of nurses from Guyana and the other CARICOM territories to the developed world is caused by the permanent shortages of nurses in the institutions of those countries, resulting in work visas for nurses being granted without much difficulty. This pull of CARICOM nurses to the developed countries has imposed a financial loss on the nurses’ home countries, since these countries would have financed their training.
Guyana may suffer most among CARICOM countries from this type of emigration because the Guyana health services are expanding at a very quick rate; in two years there would be 12 new State-of-the-Art hospitals and many more health centres requiring hundreds of nurses.
Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony is acutely aware of the threat of what could be a calamitous emigration of nurses and is exploring ways of bettering the conditions of nurses and bringing more nurses into the profession by extension of training.
At the moment, there are only three public nursing schools catering for approximately 250 trainees with a programme that lasts for 3 years. The quality of training compares with the best, but the output of the schools falls well below the present, and more so, future requirements.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Health through its Health Sciences Education Department and the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) have collaborated to devise a hybrid training programme, whereby the number of nurses trained per annum would be increased many folds. The quality of training would be of the usual high standard, though the methodology may slightly differ from the traditional. Training would be virtual, that is, by computers, and the clinical component would be done at simulation centres which would be established along the Coast and in the hinterland.
Invitations to join the course had been advertised and the Ministry expected that the numbers responding would be about 1000, but the number of applicants turned out to be 1,712 of whom 1,160 were qualified for entry. The remaining 552 would be adopted by the Ministry which will bring them up to the required standards, so that they could apply for the next cycle of training.
The training would be modernized and have a digital component, so that the newly trained nurses would be comfortable with the modern equipment increasingly being used in the hospitals. Each trainee nurse would be given a stipend of $16,180. per month and on the completion of training, each would be guaranteed employment by the Ministry of Health.
This hybrid training programme is both imaginative and creative and characterizes the work of the Ministry under the leadership of Dr. Frank Anthony, where notable achievements are made without any fanfare. An example of this is Dr. Anthony and his Ministry’s handling of the Covid 19 Pandemic where Guyana is placed among the most successful in the world.
In Guyana and the neighbouring countries, no one doubts that the hybrid training programme would be a success and applicants from abroad have expressed an interest in joining. But Dr. Anthony with his usual modesty, remarked, “We want to first make sure that we can get this pioneering programme up and running properly”.
We would strongly recommend that the Ministry, in due course, make the effort to induct more men into the nursing profession and various groups could help in this process including ‘MoM’. The first step in this process would be encouraging men to apply for the training courses.
The second recommendation we would wish to make is to make efforts to encourage young women from the Indian and Amerindian communities to apply for the training programmes. Young men and women as well as parents in these communities have long been socialized to feel that nursing is an urban profession. Social workers or even political representatives could explain to parents the value of the profession and of its universality.
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