Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Journey to a career in nursing

Published:Sunday | October 25, 2020 | 12:15 AMSydonnia Lyon and Sheryl Garriques-Lloyd - Contributors

Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This in every way describes a nurse’s journey, beginning with that first step of applying to a nursing programme. A journey filled with excitement and the embracing and donning of various colours based on the training institution. Waxing and waning through attending classes, completing clinical hours, and studying assiduously along the way to achieving the ultimate goal of wearing “the white uniform”.

Nursing training in Jamaica began in 1894 in rural hospitals where European-trained nurses would train local women. Fifty years later, the University Hospital School of Nursing was established and then the Kingston School of Nursing in 1969. Today, all nursing programmes are a four-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. We pause to acknowledge the trendsetters at Northern Caribbean University (formerly West Indies College) who began offering an undergraduate degree in nursing in 1970. We also acknowledge the University Hospital of the West Indies, formerly University College Hospital of the West Indies (popularly known as UC) as the first teaching hospital in the region.


Currently, there are nine approved educational full-time programmes for completing a BSc in nursing. The Caribbean School of Nursing – University of Technology and The UWI School of Nursing, Mona, The University of the West Indies both operate campuses in the eastern and western ends of the island (Kingston and Montego Bay). Excelsior Community College School of Nursing completes the eastern parishes while the Hyacinth Chen School of Nursing - Northern Caribbean University, the Knox Community College School of Nursing, the Brown’s Town Community College School of Nursing, and the Sigma College of Nursing and Applied Sciences in central parishes round out the list.

On any day in many of our healthcare facilities throughout the year you may encounter female students dressed in a white-collar candy- striped red or light- blue dress, a royal-blue dress, or a light blue dress. Perhaps you have seen a light-blue skirt with a white top or a dark-blue skirt with a white top, with piping the colour of the skirt on the top. Maybe you have seen our male students, dressed in black pants and a candy- striped light-blue shirt, a navy shirt, or a white shirt with stripes on the shoulders (the colours of the uniforms of their female counterparts). No matter the uniform, their training is similar.

WELL-VERSED curriculum

Students are exposed to a programme with that spans 30 courses, including anatomy and physiology, psychology, profession of nursing, and nursing research, to name a few, to obtain a total of 139 credit hours in the four years. After the BSc is completed, there is still the matter of licensure to practise nursing. Licensure moves the student from multicoloured uniforms across schools to the white uniform and RN status. Just so you know, the four-year BSc in Nursing was chosen as the toughest undergraduate degree among all other college degrees by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011. Sounds amazing but scary. Let’s see what some of our current nursing students had to say;

“One of the main things nursing has already taught me is teamwork. Getting through first year took a lot of teamwork.”

“Two of my favourite parts of nursing school is that I have the ability to gain experience on the ward, and the things I have learnt, I have applied them to my own life and have been able to help the ones I love.”

“As a nursing student, it has been a journey with ups and downs. The most ‘nursical’ I feel is when I’m caring for individuals in healthcare facilities and learning new skills.”

“Nursing school is not a walk in the park. However, the seriousness of it can be understood because the working world will have no space for trial and error as we won’t be dealing with machines but lives.”

“Coming to nursing school, I have had opportunities second to none that have made huge impressions on me.”

So if you have that nursing dream, take the first step of an amazing journey and apply to one of our nursing programmes. It is the first chapter in a wonderful profession.

Sydonnia Lyon is a third-year nursing student at The UWI School of Nursing, Mona. Sheryl Garriques-Lloyd is a nurse educator at The UWI School of Nursing, Mona, & president, Omega Kappa Chapter of Sigma. Send feedback to