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THE University of Guyana has formally launched its first Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree programme, with an initial intake of 21 nursing professionals.
The ceremony took place Wednesday at the Education Lecture Theatre on the UG Turkeyen campus, East Coast Demerara, with addresses by Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy; Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor James Rose, and Coordinator of the BSc Programme, Ms. Gwendolin Tross.
Chairman was Dr. Emmanuel Cummings, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, with Mr. Vernon Grosvenor, Head of the Department of Public Health offering the opening prayer.
As an additional boost to the programme, a presentation of books was made to the Health Sciences Faculty by Mrs. Lynette Marshal, on behalf of the Guyana-USA Nursing Chapter.
The two-year programme will be conducted at the university campus and initially will be open to persons with the Registered Nurses Certificate, those who have qualified as a Medex and persons with at least five years nursing experience, Tross said.
This is the second degree programme to have been introduced in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UG. The other is the Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).
Cummings reported that as the university's Health Science Faculty continues its onward move, there are plans for a third degree programme - the Degree in Nutrition.
In addition, he said, the faculty is hoping to soon upgrade all its programmes to the degree level. These will include the degree in Pharmacy; the degree in Medical Technology, and the degree in Mental Health. All other programmes within the faculty at this time are at the Associate Degree level, he said.
Cummings noted that one of the functions of the Faculty of Health Sciences is to train health professionals for Guyana, since the aim of any university is to provide skills for development.
Of the Nursing Degree programme now on stream, he said: "This is a great opportunity for nurses to receive the highest level of training. It means that nurses now will be in a better position to function as managers and supervisors in the different areas in which they work."
And referring to the "exchanging deportees (from North America) for nurses and teachers" syndrome, he said he hoped that given the Minister of Health's interest in, and the solid support and cooperation he continues to throw into making the programme a reality, the urge to migrate would now be negated. (Nurses and teachers are being increasingly recruited from Guyana and other regional countries for more lucrative jobs in North America and this has affected the availability of trained personnel in the sectors.)
Cummings was optimistic that the minister's involvement would ensure appropriate facilities and conditions of employment for nurses after they would have graduated with their degrees, causing them to want to stay here, and not want to migrate.
He urged the participants of the programme to "stay in this beautiful country" and help develop it.
Vice Chancellor Rose said the new programme represents a positive response by the university to a need in the society.
"Every time the university embarks upon a need such as this one, it is keeping faith with principles established earlier...it is responding to a need, and therefore serving the nation in a most appropriate way."
He said that in fashioning this programme, the university, in the first instance, was responding to the felt needs, and was doing so in the most appropriate fashion.
He said that in fashioning the programme Tross and Grosvenor held extensive discussions with all the stakeholders, adding that for a university to retain its relevance, it must at all times, stay in touch with its main stakeholders.
The university would have been presumptuous to fashion a Nursing Programme, then invite the nurses to participate, he said. "That sort of presumptuousness robs your programme of real relevance," the Vice Chancellor asserted.
He said the university would like to share at all times a relationship with the Ministry of Health that is informed by:
** professional respect;
** a recognition of the service it offers;
** the fact that an enabling relationship between the two agencies can serve to enhance the service UG offers, and the service the Ministry of Health offers to the public.
"Since we would not be able to dam the haemorrhaging of skills immediately, it therefore becomes necessary for us to put in place the best possible infrastructure for replacing lost skills", Rose said.
He, however, said that based on what he had seen of the programme being fashioned, he could not help but be convinced that the end product was good.
Having looked carefully at the admissions criteria, Rose said he was persuaded that those who have entered the course are adequately qualified for entry.
He said that based on the skills and competence of the participants, the excellence of the programme and those who will deliver it, he was convinced that the participants "will leave with advanced competencies, and that the nation's health service will benefit tremendously."
An elated Minister Ramsammy said he was personally gratified at the occasion, in that the coming into being of the programme was something he had personally worked to ensure happen.
He said the Nursing Degree Programme came out of the Health Sector Reform Programme he had initiated, and over which he was in charge.
"Even as we are threatened, nursing has never had the kind of millieu it has right now," he said.
He recalled that over the last two years, the Health Ministry has been able to formalise other specialties other than Midwifery, adding that the Nursing School has also been able to develop professional programmes such as the Midwifery Programme.
"But now we have to develop other areas, since as a country we have made policies in which we recognise other specialist areas in nursing", he said.
The minister noted with pride that Guyana is one of the few developing countries that have done so, hence it is something to feel good about.
He said that as the programme develops, the university should be acting from the perspective of taking over that training programme.
Ramsammy also outlined plans for the development of Anaesthetic, Paediatric and Mental Health programmes.
Based on the commitment on the part of the stakeholders, he said he has absolutely no doubt that the degree programme will be a success.
Noting that there are many other challenges faced in the health sector, he said the university will have to play its role in filling the niche.
"The University in Guyana is part of national development, and therefore its programmes must fit national needs," he concluded.