NASSAU, The Bahamas — Entry into the Ministry of Health’s Nursing Cadet Program and the Bachelor of Science Degree (BSc) Nursing Program at The College of The Bahamas are quickly becoming a “hot ticket”.
One hundred and sixty students (Grades 10-12) from the public and private secondary school systems in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Eleuthera, enrolled in the Nursing Cadet Program during the past 2011-2012 school year – the largest one-year total since the program was restructured in 2008.
Twenty-four Grade-12 students from public and private secondary schools in those aforementioned islands recently graduated from the Program as Nursing Cadets with the hopes of matriculating into the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Program at The College of The Bahamas.
(They will have to attain five Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education examination passes at Grades C or above including English, Math and a Science subject, in addition to meeting other criteria, to gain direct entry into the BSc. Program.)
Suitably qualified participants of the Nursing Cadet Program receive Direct Entry into the BSc. Program at The College of The Bahamas, a four-year program that is funded by the Ministry of Health through the Nurse Education Grant.
The students are also provided a monthly stipend ($475 for a minimum of 12 credits each semester) and are guaranteed a job upon graduation in a profession that has been called “recession proof” by health officials.
The Ministry of Health (through the Public Hospitals Authority), also provides housing for a limited number of successful participants from Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
“The single-largest group of healthcare professionals in the country is nurses. They continue to be an integral component of the healthcare sector,” said Minister of Health, Dr the Hon Perry M Gomez.
“However, there are not enough and there will be continued emphasis on the recruitment, training and retention of nurses in the Ministry of Health,” Dr Gomez added.
The Nursing Cadet Program is the main strategy for the recruitment of nurses. The program targets senior high school students who are interested in pursuing nursing as a career and exposes them to the basic functions, activities, skills and practices of nurses in the clinical setting at the Princess Margaret Hospital, and within the community clinics where they get an opportunity “to learn from professionals within the healthcare system who could assist them in achieving the goal of becoming qualified Registered Nurses”.
Program Coordinators and Clinical Facilitators ensure that participants attain specific academic qualifications that will allow them direct entry into the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Program at The College of The Bahamas.
“Almost 150 years ago, hospitals and some physicians (worldwide) saw women in nursing as a source of free or inexpensive labour and exploitation was not uncommon by nurses employers, physicians and educational providers who also discouraged formal ‘book learning,’” said Camille Johnson, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health.
“Nowadays, participants in the Nursing Cadet Program in The Bahamas have the option of entering The College of The Bahamas for a four-year program leading to a BSc. in Nursing, a guaranteed job, and a profession that will serve them well for the remainder of their lives if they choose to remain in it,” Ms Johnson added.
Participation in the Nursing Cadet Program, while encouraged by Program Coordinators/Facilitators as it gives students anywhere from 1-3 years training in a clinical setting prior to beginning their studies at The College of The Bahamas, is not the only way persons can enter the BSc. Program.
Full-time students at the College who are Bahamians, possess a cumulative Grade Point Average of 2.5 or above and are in possession of the minimum requirements can also qualify for the Nurse Education Grant.
Completion of all college preparatory classes is also one of the requirements. Students must additionally demonstrate financial need.
“Nursing is an art as well as a science and so the Ministry of Health is targeting students with the brightest and best young minds in our society to enter the profession,” Director of Nursing, Marcel Johnson said. “It takes those kinds of persons to build this noble profession.”
There are 164 nursing students who are currently in their second, third and fourth years of the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Program at The College of The Bahamas.
“During this period, additional arrangements have been made for the financial support of 30 nurses during their internship period in the last year of their course of study. They will be paid a salary of $10,200 per annum,” Dr Gomez said.
“The graduation class of nurses hail from the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama, the southern and central islands of The Bahamas. These nurses will sit the Nursing Council’s Final Examination for Registration in November, 2012 and will subsequently be assigned to the Department of Public Health and the Public Hospitals Authority,” Dr Gomez said.
Permanent Secretary Johnson said “only good things” can come from choosing nursing as a profession.
“You become a member of the worldwide community of nurses whose aim is for its professionals to ensure quality healthcare for all, while maintaining their credentials, code of ethics, standards and competencies, and continuing their education,” Ms Johnson said.
“We hope that you will set your feet firmly on a path that leads to Poinciana Drive and Thompson Boulevard.”