The age of failing nurses

Shamiso Yikoniko and Forward Nyanyiwa
A red flag has been raised at the high failure rate among student nurses, which is affecting efforts to increase skilled personnel in the health sector.

Of late, there has been a sharp surge of student nurses failing their final examinations, which has resulted in many being shown the exit door after a tiring three-year sojourn as a “nurse”.

The failure rate has left many questions unanswered, chief among them, whether the recruitment process is a sham or there is now a shortage of qualified tutors in the country – allegedly due to brain drain.

Recently, there was an outcry at Chitungwiza Central Hospital when there was a 41 percent failure rate after results for the last final examinations were released in December.

Of the 41 percent who failed, six were went sent home for good because they had failed their final examinations twice.

In June 2015, Ms Nyaradzo Chamisa, a final-year student nurse at United Bulawayo Hospital attempted suicide by allegedly drinking rat poison after failing her final examinations. She however, failed to take her own life in the process.

It is against this background that suspicions of a flawed recruitment process are being raised. Observers are questioning whether candidates have the requisite qualifications, as bribery allegations have always been raised during the enrolment process.

Early last year, Marondera Provincial Hospital appointed a four-member probe team chaired by Mrewa district medical officer, Dr Reginald Gwisai, following a shocking 36 percent pass rate after only four student nurses passed their final examinations in a class of 19.

The results of the investigations by the probe team revealed serious poor teaching methods as well as poor teacher-student relations, among a plethora of other shortcomings.

“One of the tutors was teaching without a plan and wasted time singing and discussing social issues. The other tutor gave student nurses group work which was not supervised,” part of the report read.

“Basic surgery which is supposed to be taught in 28 hours was taught in 41 hours and the nervous system was taught in 41 hours instead of 18 hours,” the report added.

The long teaching hours, according to the report, were a form of punishing the students.

Findings from another earlier research on student nurses failure rate indicates that the relationship of the students to people in higher offices meant that the students were accorded the opportunity to train as nurses without their intrinsic motivation to join the profession.

The findings also revealed that nurse educators were reported to be bossy and concerned with social issues of the students, which compromises the quality of nursing education.

In August 2014, seven student nurses from Bindura Hospital and Harare Hospital School of Nursing went to court challenging the outcome of their final examinations.

The seven nurses took the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa, and The Nurses Council of Zimbabwe to task when they demanded their marked answer scripts, citing Section 62 of the Constitution.

The teaching staff have come under heavy criticism, also with allegations of pestering female students for sexual favours.

But Mr Mugove Chipfurutse, a nursing tutor at Chitungwiza Central Hospital School of Nursing, attributed the failure rate to laziness and what he termed the culture of “extra lessons”.

“These students must just concentrate on their work and study hard. The problem is that most of them now base on having extra lessons somewhere outside the school so it becomes a problem.

They are just lazy and I want to believe most of them don’t even know what nursing is all about. Imagine that a person goes on to fail even after being offered a second chance. This is total madness!” said Mr Chipfurutse.

However, Ms Shylet Maponga who failed to make it at the final examinations at Bonda Hospital four years ago said there are a lot of factors contributing to this shocking trend.

“During the course of the training period, most students are hand-held to pass exams and they become dependent such that they don’t read. There is also the help of ‘kadhava’ (nursing lingo of leaked exam questions), which student nurses rely on.

“The tutors are also lazy and often students are told to research on Google but with nursing, it is tricky. There’s a lot happening in nursing schools which needs thorough assessment,” she said.

Failed nurses would have chewed millions of dollars from State coffers during their training period.

Government used to provide the primary care nurse programme which used to cater for those who would have failed.

Efforts to get comments from the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Nurses’ Council of Zimbabwe were futile.

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