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Heading for America! - Specialist nurses blame state of health sector for their rush to migrate

Published:Wednesday | May 6, 2015 | 12:00 AMTyrone Thompson
In addition to low pay and harsh working conditions, local nurses also have to deal with periodic attacks from patients as in this 2014 case where a mentally ill man attacked a nurse at the Kingston Public Hospital sparking a protest by her colleagues.

Low pay, poor working conditions and a back-breaking work load are some of the factors highly trained local nurses have listed as they justify their decisions to flee Jamaica for North America.

While accepting that their departure will further burden an already ailing health sector, the nurses say heading overseas is a sensible personal choice.

"For me to stay, they would have to pay me four times what they are paying me now, because I am a specialist nurse with over ten years' experience and, right now, I am basically getting just about $20,000 more than a nurse who just graduated nursing school is getting.

Look at it, we are here earning US$700 a month, while our colleagues who have migrated are earning much more than that in a week," declared one nurse who is seeking to head to North America to earn her living.

The nurse, who is now based at the Kingston Public Hospital, told The Sunday Gleaner that she has submitted her application and supporting documents to avanthealthcare.com.

According to the nurse, whose name is being withheld, gone are the days when health professionals had to wait on recruiters to visit the island seeking workers for North American hospitals.

She said while the recruiters still visit the island regularly, most specialist nurses are wooed via the Internet. Recruiting websites, including avanthealthcare.com, nurse.com and ogradypeyton.com, offer specialist nurses job listing and also help them with certification and training, visa and immigration processing, and settlement services.

"The recruiters came out here up to December, but if you don't see them in person, all you have to do is send your documentation online, and they will get back to you in a matter of days," said the nurse.

Another nurse, who said she would be leaving Jamaica at the end of the year, said the recruiting sites are quite helpful for those nurses who may want to leave but have no family living overseas to assist them.

"Yes, they want nurses who have finished their degrees, and they not only find the job for you, but also find lodging for you near enough so you can make your way to the hospitals where you will work. In return, the nurse pays a fraction of her salary to recruiters for a year."




She was adamant that any programme implemented to keep nurses must offer them more than just single-digit pay increases.

The nurse added that, in addition to the low wages, the state of the health sector is also pushing nurses through the door.

"It's frustrating working under these conditions. Nurses are leaving everyday and not being replaced, so what you have is a situation where two nurses will be working a ward at night with 61 patients, and so they are burnt out and might not even come to work the next day," argued the nurse.

"Not to mention the fact that there are no resources to do our job, no medication, no bed sheets. The other day, one doctor put up a sign on the ward saying, 'KPH pop down, bring your own beds and bed sheets', said the nurse.