OVER the last several years, Brunei has produced quite a number of nursing graduates to meet the nation's increasing demand for healthcare services. In April this year, some 106 graduates received their diplomas from Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah during the nursing college's 14th convocation.
Coupled with the up-and-coming merger between the Institute of Medicine in Universiti Brunei Darussalam and the nursing college to produce more nurses and midwives, more hope will be placed on the government by these graduates to provide the jobs (34 per cent of nurses working with the Ministry of Health were found to be graduates of the nursing college, according to 2000 statistics).
An article in The Brunei Times highlighted that last year, more than 100 graduates were still searching for employment in their field.
The figure was revealed during a gathering of parents, guardians and students with the principal, registrar and course facilitator of the nursing college.
Following interviews with some of these graduates, most of them are now employed as of this year, with the major concern now on the length of time it takes from applying to getting hired. One nurse interviewed said an offer was made by the nursing college during her intake's graduation night for their batch to work in Singapore.
Although she declined, citing family reasons, she said more than 20 signed up for the offer and are now earning a living in the city-state.
Lengthy bureaucratic processes aside, this brings up the question: should these graduates be relying solely on the government to earn a living? Does the government really owe them jobs?
In the Philippines, where there is an oversupply of nurses, some policy makers and leaders are encouraging graduates to go abroad and help its Asian neighbours, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan, as well as European and North American countries who are in short supply of nurses to help these countries in addressing their nursing problems.
However, this brings up another complication as for Filipino nurses to go abroad they should first have two years experience in the country and public and private hospitals do not hire nurses regularly.
As the merger between UBD's Institute of Medicine and the nursing college is expected to produce more professional nurses, the government would have to come up with a plan to absorb them.
The government could reduce the bureaucratic tangles delaying the employment of these graduates because the waiting time can be very frustrating for them and at the same time the country will be deprived of their services.
The other way out could be a government-to-government deal between the sultanate and countries with nursing shortages, such as Singapore and the Gulf states.
For example, through a free trade pact, Japan will be accepting 1,000 nurses and health care workers from Indonesia this year to help ease the country's shortage of such staff.
The move marks the first time Japan has brought in foreign nurses and care workers on a full-time basis.
Such a solution requires serious work and commitment from both the government and the graduates themselves. As Salamah Janda-Schwab, a successful Bruneian-born senior lecturer for midwifery working at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK has said, exposure to different ways of training in terms of having to learn other cultures when overseas has its extra benefits.
"It will open our nurses' and midwives' eyes in terms of experience as well as in applying the best practices for the good of our country," she said in an earlier interview.
Last year, the Ministry of Health's director of nursing said that Brunei is facing a shortage of doctors, but the number of nurses are "quite sufficient", adding that since the sultanate is in possession of qualified nurses who have degrees and diplomas, their skills can be upgraded in order for the government to be able to extend their roles.
Meanwhile, graduates who cannot afford to wait for too long for the government to give them an offer may consider working on initiatives of their own.
For example, in other developed countries, unemployed nurses have formed associations or cooperatives which 'sells' nursing services, including on-call or home services to help the old and weak or mentally-challenged children.
But the government too needs to help in every way possible so as to ensure that whatever legitimate ventures that these nurses indulge in or set their minds to, success would readily be the outcome.
The Brunei Times
Saturday, December 6, 2008
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