It is pertinent to be reminded that Nursing did not start in Nigeria as a university-based programme; it began just like Medicine, which started at Yaba College, as well as Pharmacy and Physiotherapy. However, while these other fields of study responded swiftly and positively to societal needs, alongside technological and scientific advancement in healthcare delivery, nursing education and professional development became victims of conspiracies from within and outside the profession, leading to foot dragging. The reasons for this include:
Gender complacency and satisfaction with the minimum;
Territorial protection by nursing leaders with limited education (inferiority complex);
Nurse scholars “educated nurses” superiority complex;
Welfare-oriented professional association;
Government’s lack of will to formulate and implement policies on nursing education;
Propaganda by detractors to picture a situation of lack of confidence and proclamation of professional incompetence in the products of basic nursing education;
Lack of cooperation and professional internal cohesion that led to external aggression and infiltration into the professional autonomy.
Consequently, nursing education and practices were rendered sluggish in development. Multiples of sub-degree programmes emerged, promoting subservient and utility workers rather than thinkers; policy implementers, rather than decision-makers and reformers.
Actualisation of the new schemes of service
It has been a long-standing battle to convince employers of labour that the regulatory agency for the education and practice of the nursing profession in Nigeria, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), does not train nor have a register for any cadre of nursing called “nursing superintendents” or “nursing assistants” but professionals who are officers in the public service.
The dichotomy created by the variance in nomenclatures, contrary to clarifications from NMCN, has meted out injustice and psychological trauma to members of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), who have strived to acquire higher academic qualifications while still in service. Nurses have been made to revert back to lower grade levels in the name of conversion to the nursing officer’s cadre. However, the 39th National Council on Establishment (NCE) meeting which held in Minna July 2016 acceded to the prayers of NANNM, requesting the full implementation of the Industrial Arbitration Panel Award of 1981 that recognized the professional qualifying examination – with the award of Registered Nurse/Midwife (RN and RM) for nurses and midwives in Nigeria – as the pre-requisite for registration, certification and licensing for professional practice.
The approval ratified that all nurses in the country be recognised and regarded as “nursing officers”, irrespective of their training institutions and academic qualifications – either as graduates of schools of nursing and midwifery with an equivalent academic qualification of HND; or graduates of universities with bachelor’s degree in nursing sciences – provided that such graduates have sat and passed the same professional qualifying examination by the NMCN.
It was equally ratified that practising nurses who have possessed RN/RM and equally acquired a bachelor degree in nursing sciences should be converted laterally to enhance their career progression beyond grade level 14 in conformity with extant public service rules. This will ensure that not only will the discriminatory nomenclature of “nursing superintendent” be removed but that nurses who acquire additional qualification while still in service will enjoy seamless transition and continuity, without having to revert backwards on their grade levels to the pinnacle of their career.
By Comrade Nurse Abdrafiu Alani Adeniji
(National President, NANNM)