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Time To Overhaul Guyana’s Nurse-Training System

It is with mixed emotions that I read the Health Minister of Guyana, Dr. Frank Anthony’s plea, during the recent launching of the Nursing Assistant Program in Region Two.

In the wake of Guyana’s beleaguered public healthcare system, and the criticism regarding care received, he implored the trainees to recall why they chose the profession, and further encouraged them to render care in a trained and compassionate manner.

Wonderful words, well-articulated, but ones that should be kept foremost in the minds of the members of the Nursing Assistant Selection Committee, rather than serve as the mainstay and ballast in a commencement speech.

The list of qualities that nurses must exhibit is endless, and can be both personal and professional, so narrowing the list to just a few traits can prove to be ultimately problematic. 

Empathy cannot be taught in a nursing assistant program. It is the individual’s ability to put him/herself in the place of another and understand how that person is feeling. Empathy allows a nursing assistant to provide better care, because he/she is helping patients from the patient’s point of view and not that of himself/herself.

Let it not be forgotten, or in any way be overlooked, that hopefully the nursing staff (regardless of status), at the Georgetown Public Hospital all underwent a selection process, prior to commencement of training. 

It should be during the interviewing and ultimate selection process that the desired qualities etc. are stated, demonstrated, authenticated, elaborated through questioning by the interviewer and given responses by the interviewee(s). 

It logically follows that members of the Nursing Assistant Selection Committee should be more astute judges of expected personal and professional characteristics and traits that differentiate one applicant from another and augurs well for the profession as a whole.

Nurses are not the only ones in whose direction fingers should be pointed, for a nurse does not become a curse to the profession overnight — simply a demonstration of failed detection and inspection, before certification. 

Concomitantly, the role of the nursing assistant must not be downplayed, for they are basically the second pair of eyes to the nurse, most importantly, because of the actual bedside contact time spent with the patient.

Such an act is therapeutic in more ways than one, with the patient responding well to treatment demands, under the guidance/supervision of someone who epitomizes confidence, care and respect. 

Sadly, however, in Guyana, the culture of respect has eroded, and this attitude has seeped into the healthcare arena, with resultant display in the manner in which care is given, at a critical time to the most vulnerable. 

From time immemorial, displaying respect for patients has been part of the foundation of excellent nursing care. Again, respect is not taught, nor is it something that one has to beseech from another human being. Respect in the healthcare sector helps to create and maintain a healthy environment, in which patients, irrespective of ethnicity, feel cared for as individuals, and members of healthcare teams are engaged, collaborative and committed to service.

Nurses are regarded as the backbone of every healthcare system in the world, and to all good accounts, due to the importance of the backbone and its involvement in almost all body functions.

The time has come for an overhaul of the Guyanese nurse training system, especially as it relates to the Nursing Assistants.

The Minister of Health, Chief Nursing Officer, Nursing Tutors and all other stakeholders are called upon to ensure that, not only are the requirements in place, but also effectively mobilized to ensure that the backbone is kept erect and gaining strength, as displayed by all those who comprise the backbone, and voiced by the recipients of the service — the patients.

Yours faithfully,
Yvonne Sam
Quebec, Canada

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