Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Trainee nurses already eyeing overseas option

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2020 | 12:20 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

WESTERN BUREAU:

With hundreds of nurses leaving Jamaica each year to take up more lucrative job offers overseas, it would appear that the trend could be a never-ending cycle as even the student nurses in training are already contemplating that option.

During last Friday’s ninth annual striping ceremony for the University of Technology’s (UTech) Caribbean School of Nursing in Montego Bay, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton was given a strong message as to the thinking of the nurses in training.

“Every year, 500 to 600 of you leave the profession here in Jamaica and board an airline to go somewhere else in the world. How many of you are preparing for that, let me see your hands?”, said Tufton.

As if they were anticipating the question from Tufton, approximately one-third of the students raised their hands, leaving no doubt that, like the nurses who have been leaving in increasing numbers over recent years, those in training are already eyeing the prospect of earning their living in foreign currency.

“UTech training for export, it’s quite obvious,” quipped Tufton, seemingly caught off guard by the response from those students who indicated a willingness to go to greener pasture.“If an accountant and a policeman can migrate, why shouldn’t a nurse be allowed to migrate too?” said Tufton, resigning himself to the reality of the situation. “The truth is that we have a very open society, and you become more marketable depending on the strength of your skill and, by extension, the mobility of your talent.”The response from the nursing students comes in the wake of a recent revelation by Carmen Johnson, the president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), who earlier this month stated that 1,100 nurses left the profession between 2018 and 2019.

There is a strong demand for nurses across the world as according to the World Health Organization, some nine million nurses and midwives will be needed globally by 2030.

While NAJ says it has been unsuccessful in its effort to ascertain how many nurses are being trained in Jamaica annually, The Gleaner understands that Jamaica needs approximately 1,000 nurses to plug the existing local vacancies.

At the striping ceremony, Tufton noted that nurses make up roughly one-third of the nation’s medical cohort, and their approach to the job can make or break the health sector.“Of the 17,000 persons who work in public health, between 4,000 and 5,000 fall in that category of nurses, midwives, and all other associated areas. You have the capacity to make the profession rise and shine, or, depending on your levels of motivation, compassion, caring, and technical competence, you also have the capacity to make the profession dull, boring, and even fail,” Tufton said.