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Call for elevation in nursing level

Lisa King

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by Lisa KingNURSES IN BARBADOS should be elevated to the level of “nurse practitioner”, which would allow them to do a number of things they cannot do at this time. President of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA), Paulette Drakes, explained that a nurse practitioner could prescribe medication, make diagnosis and treat patients in a manner similar to that of a medical practitioner. If her suggestion is instituted, it would limit the amount of time patients spend waiting for care in the Accident and Emergency Department and minimise the number of patients who walk away without receiving appropriate medical care.Drakes speaking to the WEEKEND NATION lamented that at present mid-wives were the only nurses allowed to operate in a similar way to a nurse practitioner as they could deliver babies and tend to mother and child without a doctor present.The post, which is common in Europe and the United States of America, is not common in the Caribbean, but Drakes explained that it exists in rural parts of Jamaica where people cannot get to doctors. If the post is established, nurses would have to undergo additional training, which would entail an understanding of anatomy, the structure of medicines and how they work.She said the position is deemed necessary as registered nurses are faced daily with situations that merit critical attention and place them in a position where they may have to overstep their boundaries and face legal consequences. Drakes also called for a salary evaluation for registered nurses who she said are not paid at a level that is commensurate with their qualifications or workload.  Though she does not want a reduction in the pay of nurses’ assistants, she would like higher pay for registered nurses.  “The registered nurses are paid just a little more than the nurses assistants, who have only studied for one year, while registered nurses have to study for three or more years and have a heavier workload as nurses’ assistants cannot perform certain tasks,” Drakes said. THE BNA president noted that while there was no nursing shortage at this time, if Government continued with its plans to expand the A & E Department, Intensive Care Unit and other high-dependency units, then there may eventually be a shortage of trained nurses.  She contended that in some cases nurses could be overwhelmed by their workload, especially when some situations forced patients who required serious care to be placed in the general patients’ area.“This can be overwhelming when there is only one registered nurse working the ward along with a nurse assistant, who cannot perform some of the necessary tasks due to lack of training,” she said.