Wednesday October 10, 2012
Holistic solution needed for nurses
The Star Says
THE happy faces of the 50 nurses say it all. They are the lucky ones who will finally get to work at five private hospitals, thanks to the intervention of the Government through the Human Resources Ministry's MyCareer programme.
But this is merely an ad hoc measure to tackle the bigger issue of thousands of graduates from private nursing institutions who cannot find work at both public and private hospitals.
Two facts stand out: that there is a gross mismatch between supply and demand for nurses in the country, and the not-up-to-par quality of these graduates.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam urged these colleges to pay attention to their training programmes and strive for improvements so that standards are up to the requirements of government and private hospitals.
Subramaniam, a doctor by training, certainly knows what he is talking about when he said his ministry needed to work with the Health Ministry and Higher Education Ministry to seek a “holistic solution to the issue”.
The mushrooming of colleges to train nurses and other allied health workers has always been a cause for concern. The most recent government statistics from 2010 show that more than 54% of private nursing diploma graduates were not able to find work three to four months after graduating, compared to only 21.7% in 2008.
One, interviewed by The Star, revealed that she struggled to find work for more than six months, and “after every failed interview, I would vent my frustration on my mother.”
Stories like hers are common. There are an estimated 8,000 nursing graduates still unemployed, and at least 12,000 will enter the marketplace each year upon graduation from the 61 private institutions of higher learning that offer some form of nursing diploma courses.
The Government always gives priority to those trained at public universities and colleges so the demand must come from the private sector.
Despite the increasing number of private hospitals, demand for nurses is only estimated at 1,500 a year.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that the more established private hospitals already have their own nursing training centres.
When the minister spoke about the “quality” of these graduates, he would be aware that while the entry requirement is now five SPM credits instead of three previously, one can still take up nursing without credits in all Science subjects.
Many hospital administrators have also voiced concerns over how picky these graduates are, their lack of soft skills, language competency, and their reluctance to serve beyond their own comfort zone.
The holistic solution clearly must look at the number of such courses and the quality of the training. In addition, another critical stakeholder the private hospitals must be brought into the picture. They too must do their part in ensuring that these students are properly trained to be potentially employable.
Nurses are as important in the overall healthcare system as the doctors. We need nurses who are not only competent, but with the heart of Florence Nightingale.
It is time to seek a holistic solution by treating the cause, and not just the symptoms.