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Japa: Nigerian Nurses, Midwives protest against revised guidelines

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Japa: Nigerian Nurses, Midwives protest against revised guidelines

Following the announcement of the revised guidelines for verification of certificates by the Nursing & Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), Nigerian nurses and midwives have protested against the implementation of these guidelines, clamouring that the requirements are a violation of their fundamental human rights, which would impede their career growth, academic progression, among others.

NMCN, in its revised guidelines, has mandated all applicants seeking verification of certificates to foreign nursing councils to have a minimum of two years post qualification experience, a letter of good standing from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the applicant’s place of work and the last training institution the applicant attended.

Based on the circular, which takes effect from 1st March 2024, a non-refundable verification fee shall be paid per application and the verification process would take a minimum of six months.

After this announcement, nurses took to social media to kick against this new rule by the regulatory body, through the hashtag “NotoNMCNverificationrule on X. In some states like Bayelsa, Oyo, Abuja, and Lagos, nurses had a peaceful walk against the new verification rule.

In an interview with our correspondent, Nurse Taofikat Bayo-Oladeji, decried the lack of career opportunities in the Nigerian nursing profession.

“The issue transcends the welfare of nurses. It’s about the lack of career opportunities. We are streamlined into one place, and there are no opportunities to excel in your career unlike outside the country, where you have so many opportunities,” she said.

Nurse Taofikat added that the revised guidelines aren’t beneficial to Nigerian nurses in any way, instead, these guidelines will make their life difficult, especially career-wise.

“The revised guidelines do not, in any way, help Nigerian nurses. These guidelines will make our lives difficult regarding our careers. Normally, if you go to the school of nursing, which is three years, and the university, which is five years, you will be issued a license, which is not given immediately after you graduate from the school of nursing or the university. You have to wait for about three to six months.

“The license expires in the next three years. What if I don’t want to practice nursing immediately after school? Since they are requesting two years, this means that I won’t be able to verify my certificate because I need a letter of good standing from the CMD of the hospital and I have to get a letter from the school. There are a lot of issues that won’t make the guidelines work.

“Some people have conferences outside the country, and this doesn’t mean that they are relocating. Does this mean that they have to wait for six months before they get verification? What if the conference is in the next three months? Even though you have given me my license and certified that I’m a nurse, why do I have to wait for six months to get verification of my certificate? Before, It took six weeks to be verified. Normally, this shouldn’t take more than 24 hours. Verification should be immediate at any point we need it,” she stated.

She further stated that the non-refundable fee used to be N10,000 as of 2021/2022. However, she paid N68,000 for the verification of her certificate last year.

“Concerning the non-refundable fee, we were paying N10,000 in 2021/2022. As of last year, I paid N68,000 which was the official fee just for me to be verified,” she said.

In addition, she noted that waiting for a year or two years post-graduation before receiving a permanent license is one of the issues the nursing community is currently facing.

In an interview on Channels TV, which was closely monitored by our correspondent, Dr. Faruk Abubakar, Registrar/CEO, NMCN, disclosed that the council received several complaints on issues regarding nurses’ relocation. One of which was leaving the country without proper resignation and following due process. To address this allegation, Taofikat said she had never heard of such incident, adding that, there was no shortage of nurses in Nigeria as stated by Dr. Faruk.

“I have never heard of a situation, where a nurse will leave their place of work without following the due process. I know a lot of nurses, and I work with them. Normally, what is expected of an employee is to send their resignation letter one month before you leave or you forfeit that month’s payment. This is a situation of not being strict with their guidelines.

“There are so many issues facing the nursing practice that NMCN should even address. He talked about the shortage of nurses but the truth is, there is no shortage of nurses in Nigeria. They are not employing nurses. The School of Nursing and the university are producing nurses every year. They are the ones under-employing nurses, or they are not paying well,” she said.

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She added that the new verification rule was an infringement on nurses’ fundamental human rights. She attributed the high rate of nurses’ relocation to the bad economy and poor remuneration as opposed to other countries where greener pasture is assured.

“This is an infringement on our fundamental human rights. We have responsibilities but since the economy is not promising or my remuneration is poor, such that the money can’t even buy a bag of rice, and if I travel out of the country, there is promise of greener pasture, are you telling me I have to stay back?,” she said.

Taofikat further decried the lack of welfare in the Nigerian nursing sector and the unfair treatment meted out to nurses such as bullying. Also, she urged the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) to fight against the implementation of this new rule.

“There are many instances of nurses being treated unfairly. The issue of the College of Nursing that should be converted into a degree is not being addressed. Bullying in nursing schools, and hospitals, bullying by senior colleagues, they are not doing anything concerning that. But when they see that these people are traveling out for greener pastures, they want to put a stop to it.

“We want NANNM to do something about this. Hopefully, we will get it right because If we don’t get it right, I don’t think we can ever get it right. That rule will be here to stay. They claimed they subsidized our education, what about people that went to private schools of nursing or Private universities?

“However, I’m impressed with our senior colleagues, they are not affected like young nurses but they came out to support us. During our peaceful walk at Ibadan, I saw many of our senior colleagues there. These revised guidelines will discourage people, who want to go into the nursing profession. NMCN should be making laws that will make nurses glad that they are here, not laws that will frustrate them,” she appealed.

Also speaking on the revised guidelines, Nurse Kolawole likened the current situation to creating problems to solve problems. To buttress his point, he referred to the community nursing and midwifery two-year program, which was implemented to supposedly fix the problem of shortage of nurses in Nigeria. Nigerian nurses kicked against this decision as a lot of their colleagues were unemployed and seeking employment, despite this, the government went ahead to execute their plan.

“What the nursing council has always been doing is to drag nursing backward. They create the impression that the welfare of nurses doesn’t matter. If they truly value the welfare of nurses, the first thing they should work towards is how to convince the government to improve the welfare of nurses in terms of salary, and packages like hazard allowances, and enhance entry level for nurses, especially graduate nurses and specialized nurses. “However, what they are after is producing more nurses, and now the supply is so high that we are losing our value. Nurses are working 24/7 like machines but what they are going home with at the end of the month is nothing to write home about. Graduate nurses can’t afford to live in comfortable apartments. We are not able to give back to our parents who sponsored us through nursing school,” he said.

He vehemently opposed the enforcement of the new verification rule stating that the two years post qualification experience requirement would encourage quackery in the profession.

“These revised guidelines have a lot of consequences on the younger generation. One of the requirements is for graduate nurses to work for two years post-graduation, this is a way to encourage quackery in the nation. Quackery is one of the top issues we have been trying to solve because a lot of private hospitals are employing these quacks to work as nurses so that they can pay them lesser. Thereby, leaving the qualified ones unemployed or underemployed.

“Nursing education is one of the most expensive as far as Nigerian education is concerned. People in the school of nursing pay an average of N500,000 per session, while some pay N600,000 to N700,000 per session. Let’s not even talk about the fees in private schools and you want these set of people to graduate and stay back. In the country, where they are not appreciated. This is just a means of enslaving us,” he disapproved.

“Another thing is regarding the letter of good standing from CEOs and heads of training institutions. There will be issues of assault, and molestation, especially on the female nurses. This has been happening before now but if these guidelines take effect, our female colleagues will experience more assault. This is because people will be so desperate to get this letter of good standing from the CEOs of their workplaces.

“Dr. Faruk is trying to drag the profession backward. On the minimum of six months’ guideline, we have been clamouring to meet up with international standards. In advanced countries, if you want to verify a nurse, it is within 24 hours. Everything can be done online. Saying you need a minimum of six months to verify that a nurse is registered is like living in the past. A minimum of six months means it can last for one year or two years. The best interpretation of these revised guidelines is that they don’t want nurses to travel out of the country anymore.

“The procedure of traveling is in stages. The first stage is the verification of certificates. Afterward, the next stage is to sit for the exam and write Husky, the practical aspect of the exam. We do police clearance and other clearances before we travel out. It is not the responsibility of NMCN to confirm how I have been doing my job. The only responsibility they have is to ensure that people they certify have fully undergone the stipulated nursing training before they are certified.

“No nurse can escape any of the procedures. If he claims that people are leaving their jobs without following the right procedures, it is not the job of NMCN to delve into this. An employer, who has experienced something like this can sue the employee. Concerning the report about fake nurses in America, the suspects were not from Nigeria. Also, there is no shortage of nurses in Nigeria. There are many registered nurses, who are unemployed.

He urged NMCN to withdraw the new guidelines and adhere to the international standards of verifying certificates.

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NANNM, in a circular signed by its General Secretary, Thomas Ahmed Shettima, has assured its members that the association will stop at nothing to ensure that the concerns raised are appropriately and promptly addressed.

“We want to assure all our members nationwide and indeed the entire Nigeria Nurses and Midwives that the Association (NANNM) will stop at nothing in ensuring that the concerns raised are properly and promptly addressed. It should be noted that presently, the Board of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, like most Statutory Boards, has been dissolved by the Federal Government,” it read.

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