Dedicated nursing school ‘a must’
By Barry Alleyne
The failure rate of aspiring nurses is alarmingly high, and president of the Barbados Nurses Association, C. Joannah Waterman, wants urgent corrective action.
She is hoping an autonomous school of nursing, with the commensurate human and physical resources will soon be established and bring the numbers back in line with the rest of the Caribbean.
Last month, Waterman presented Prime Minister Mia Mottley with a special paper outlining ways to improve the overall academic performance of nursing students, after only 11 per cent of those who took the regional nursing exam passed, some even failing at their second attempt.
“It’s never been this bad,” a concerned Waterman said.
The failure rates have made it impossible for the health care sector to satisfy the need for 590 registered nurses, forcing Government to look beyond Barbados for nurses to fill 35 vacancies at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Thirty-five students from Barbados took the last Regional Examination for Nursing Registration (RENR) in October last year, and only four passed.
“A pattern of high failure rates has emerged for the past ten years or more, with passes on average being in the 30s and 40s percentage. Among this last group was a significant number of graduates who struggled to pass a basic fundamentals of nursing course, repeated other courses, and experienced a difficult pathway to graduation,” Waterman said.
She noted that a major deficit is large numbers of students being attached to one acute care institution and without structured a preceptorship programme.
“Such a programme would have preceptors and mentors who focus on the achievement of student objectives, providing the coaching and mentoring that would assist students in application of theory to practice and to make that transition from classroom to clinical setting.
“The ratio of clinical instructors to students has never been adequate and clinicians in the field are therefore relied on to teach and supervise students, while managing their patient case load, in the face of acute shortages within the institution,” she asserted.
The BNA chief said an autonomous school would have as its focus the needs of the professional stream, not just general education approach to attaining an adequate Grade Point Average (GPA).
“Within such a school, autonomous decisions need to be made and the appropriate corrective measures pertaining to those students who are not making the desired grades, sometimes repeatedly failing even fundamental nursing courses, so that by the time they are submitted to take the Regional Examination, there would be a reduced likelihood of failure,” Waterman suggested.
She also believed there should be a review of the course provided by the Barbados Community College (BCC).
“Inflated failure rates also occur because of lack of decision-making to discontinue those students who demonstrate clearly the lack of capacity to cope with the programme. Consideration should be given to transfer out those students to a lower level programme in which they can manage. There is also the need to have the percentage pass in the nursing programme (at the BCC) be equivalent to that of the regional exam.”
The pass rate for the regional exam is 66-67 per cent, compared to 60 per cent at the BCC.
Waterman said Government had shown an interest in the plight of the fraternity, especially as it relates to the high failure rate of students, and there is a plan for collaboration with Chamberlain University, to eventually establish a School of Nursing here.
President of the Barbados Nursing
Association, C. Joannah Waterman. (GP)