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Student nurses will be used during pandemic

The Nassau Guardian May 7, 2020

Jasper Ward

Student nurses undergoing training at public healthcare facilities will be considered registered nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of an amended emergency order.

Student nurses will be deemed registered nurses for the purposes of the Nurses and Midwives Act during the state of public emergency, which was declared in March.

The nurses will be employed by the Ministry of Health “under a contract of service during the state of public emergency or until such other time as contracted between the parties”.

The Ministry of Health is mandated to ensure that the nurses are registered with the National Insurance Board (NIB) and that they are entitled to the benefits of employed individuals under the National Insurance Act.

The decision to register student nurses comes as The Bahamas’ healthcare system is plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 200 healthcare providers have been quarantined since the virus was first confirmed in The Bahamas in March.

Before the appearance of COVID-19, the public healthcare sector was already struggling with a nurse shortage.

In January, then Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said The Bahamas needed an additional 500 nurses to adequately staff public health facilities across the country.

However, Acting Director of Nursing Gina Dean said yesterday there are enough nurses to man the public health system.

“I know you would’ve heard that we’ve had nurses and physicians out on quarantine after being exposed,” Dean told The Nassau Guardian.

“And so, we have had some challenges in that regard but we are managing adequately at this time. In reference to the order that just recently came out, the background to that is that we do have a category of nurses, we refer to them in our system as finalists nurses; what that means is these are nurses who have graduated from UB (University of The Bahamas). They’ve finished UB but they’ve not yet taken their council exam to become registered nurses.”

She said the exam was supposed to be held this month but it was postponed as a result of the pandemic.

Dean said student nurses are working in the public health sector under the supervision of a senior registered nurse.

“Even though they have been deemed registered nurses, that really is for the benefit of being sure that they are able to receive any benefits if anything happens to them while they are employed,” she said.

Yesterday, Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams declined to comment about the government’s decision to recruit student nurses during the health crisis, noting that the union was consulting its legal team.

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