GOVERNMENT is moving to remove a practical testing element for nurses to qualify in a bid to fill over 3,000 vacancies in the health sector.
This from Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan yesterday who said the examination overseen by the Nursing Council of Trinidad and Tobago will no longer be necessary for nurses to begin practising at the nation's hospitals once the amendments to the Nursing and Midwives Act are passed in Parliament.
Speaking at a media conference at the Ministry of Health's head office on Park Street, Port of Spain, Khan said between 2009-2012 over 40 per cent of graduating nurses failed the licensing exam.
He said that nurses who fail the exam on three consecutive occasions are permanently disqualified from practising.
Khan said nursing graduates were already holding nursing certificate or Bachelor's degree from a training institution yet the present law mandated that they still sit an examination imposed by the Nursing Council in order to be become registered nurses and practise their profession.
"The removal of this examination will bring the registration and licensing of our nurses in line with other such noble professionals. Our nurses who are trained in Trinidad and Tobago will have automatic registration to practice within Trinidad and Tobago, and those who wish to practice abroad can sit any relevant registration exam to practice in that territory," he said.
"This among other factors has impacted negatively on the Ministry's manpower planning, as there continues to be a serious shortfall in nursing personnel. In order to address this problem and to ensure there is continuous improvement within the health sector, the Ministry is exploring various initiatives," he said.
Khan said while the Ministry has increased its training programmes and now enrolls 300 nursing students, there continues to be a "severe shortage of nurses within our local health system".
Khan said five amendments to the Nurses and Midwives Act, already approved by Cabinet, will also reduce the current size of the Nursing Council.
He said the Nurses and Midwives Act currently stipulates that the Nursing Council consists of 22 people, but he thought that was too large and suggested that it be reduced to 13 people comprising elected, non-elected members and lay people.
To further streamline the training processes, Khan said the Government recently agreed to move all nursing training programmes from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training.
A representative of the Nurses Council yesterday said the body will be sending out a media release today, but would not speak on the issue until then.
Valerie Alleyne-Rawlins, president of the T&T Registered Nurses Association yesterday said the licensing exam determined the graduates "fitness" to practice as a nurse. She said she was unaware of the amendments and would only comment when she got more information from the Ministry of Health.