By SASHA HARRINANAN Thursday, July 5 2012
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TT'S NURSES: Several nurses who attended yesterday's press conference in which the Nurses Council of TT publicly objected to Government's plan to scra...
THE Nursing Council (NCTT) is publicly voicing its objection to plans by Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to abolish its nurses registration exam as a pre-requisite for becoming a practicing nurse in this country.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday at The Professional Centre, Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook, council vice-president Karin Pierre said, “It is life and death that we are dealing with...this things called patient care.
“We are not driving nails into a wall, we are managing patients in the clinical setting. And the primary role of the Nursing Council is to protect the interests of the public and the professions, ensuring that practitioners are safe to practice,” Pierre stated.
Earlier this week, the Health Minister said Cabinet had approved changes which would see the Nurses and Midwives Registration Act amended during the next session of Parliament, to remove the exam as a requirement to practice as a nurse. This is being done in order to alleviate an acute nursing shortage while reducing the number of foreign nurses hired by the State to fill that gap.
Khan also lamented the 40 percent failure rate of nursing graduates who write the registration exam.
Each nurse aspirant has three attempts within a five-year period to obtain a 60 percent pass mark in four papers; two essay-type and two multiple choice. Two exams are held each year — in April and October — with results and outlines for the next year’s exams determined at an annual meeting of the body known as the Regional Education for Nursing Registration (RENR).
RENR meets every July, on a rotating basis in each of the 13 Caricom-member countries whose Nursing Councils comprise its membership.
Speaking on Monday, Khan said, “the removal of this examination will bring the registration and licensing of our nurses in line with other such noble professionals. Our nurses who are trained in TT will have automatic registration to practice within TT, and those who wish to practice abroad can sit any relevant registration exam to practice in that territory for example, the Regional exam.”
The Health Minister’s claims of a significant failure-rate and its resultant hindrance of public health institutions’ ability to hire qualified local nurses was disputed yesterday by NCTT members David Murphy and Russell Salcedo.
According to Salcedo, the figures referred to by Khan were actually for individual years and not for persons’ overall attempts to pass the NCTT registration exam.
“In 2009, 84 percent of students passed the exam. That figure dropped in 2010 to 62 percent but rose slightly in 2011 to 64 percent. So by and large, even though just under 40 percent of persons were not successful during their initial sitting of the exam, over the last two years, the fail-out rate over a five-year period is actually three to four percent,” Salcedo noted.
Arguing that was a minimal fail-rate and therefore not cause for Khan to move to withdraw the NCTT exam as a pre-requisite to becoming a licensed nurse in TT, Murphy said the Council is worried about who would determine whether someone is competent to practice nursing if the law is amended.
“If the exam is removed, our greatest fear is that we would not know who is out there working in the capacity of a licensed nurse. We may also see a proliferation of nursing schools whose graduates may not be fully trained or properly exposed to the practical side of nursing during their training,” Murphy warned.
It was revealed yesterday that contrary to published reports, the Health Minister has not met with NCTT executive members on this and related issues. Pierre recalled that the Council’s March 27 two-page letter, written on its behalf by attorney Elaine V Green, to the Legal Department of the Health Ministry was met with a, “curt, three-line response”, on April 17.
Pierre read from the letter, signed by the Ministry’s Legal Adviser Bhabie Roopchand, saying, “The Ministry of Health has considered your submission for and on behalf of the Nursing Council but has found no merit to same. Accordingly, the Ministry of Health will be approaching Cabinet for its necessary approvals.” Pierre said the NCTT has since written a second letter to the ministry and is still awaiting a response, hence its decision to go public with its objections to scrapping the exam.