UTech president backs call to train nurses for export
Newly installed President of the University of Technology (UTech) Professor Stephen Vasciannie has added his voice to the debate surrounding the shortage of nurses in the public health sector and the need to train nurses for export.
Vasciannie believes that Jamaica can and should be training more nurses in response to the chronic shortage of these workers in the public health system, exacerbated by countries doing active recruitment in Jamaica.
In recent times, there have been jitters among some, including Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, who have openly expressed concern at the spate at which Jamaican nurses, especially ones trained in specialist areas, are leaving the country or being poached.
Reported to UN
The practice has resulted in the health care system being exposed, forcing the minister to report the matter to the United Nations (UN) last month, outlining the pickle in which countries such as Jamaica are being placed.
But Vasciannie, an attorney-at-law, believes that with proper arrangements in place with foreign governments, the country stands to gain significant foreign exchange earnings from training nurses for the export market.
"Through structured training agreements with overseas governments, we [could] provide the required training of their own people for re-entry into their respective economies once they have been trained here," said Vasciannie at a stripping ceremony for nursing students on Thursday.
He noted that Jamaican nurses have earned the reputation of being among the best in the world in health care delivery and has called for that to be leveraged.
The professor, a former principal of the Norman Manley Law School, said there is no quick fix to the gaps left in the health sector as a result of the number of nurses leaving in droves for the international market where the pay scale is higher.
He suggested that Jamaica's response should be more education and further training of nurses.
"The United Stated of America, for example, has projected that they will need 1.2 million trained nurses by 2022," Vasciannie said in offering a reason for more students to be included in the training pool.
... 'It's a win, win for all'
Professor Stephen Vasciannie, president of the University of Technology, further suggested that an arrangement could be forged with foreign governments, which would require them to invest in strengthening Jamaica's health care infrastructure in exchange for training their nurses.
"More nurses would be trained for both countries and it would be a win-win for all," Vasciannie contended.
In the meantime, in delivering his message to the more than 200 nursing students, and supported by lecturers and the top brass of the nursing sector, Vasciannie said UTech was already playing its role in advancing Jamaica's health care sector.
"UTech is doing our part in helping to fill the gap for trained nurses. Since 2007, the yearly intake of student nurses at both our Papine and Montego Bay campuses has been steadily increasing. Since 2007, the university has graduated some 678 nurses," he said.