Nurses and midwives form the bedrock of Ghana’s health delivery system while nursing education is an important tool for effective patient care.
Indeed, the high quality and international reputation of the Ghanaian nurse/midwife is due, in no small part, to the efforts of nurse educators. Yet nurse educators who train the nation’s nurses and midwives have hardly been given the needed recognition, support and assistance to discharge their mandate.
Over the years, Ghanaian nurse educators have worked in an unfriendly environment. Nurses and midwives have not found it attractive to pursue continuing education to become tutors in nursing and midwifery training institutions because of unattractive career progression and remuneration.
Again, rather than ensuring job satisfaction for tutors, the intake of student nurses and midwives into the various training institutions have inordinately increased, resulting in increased workload on only a few teachers, with its corresponding effects on the standard of students’ performance.
Coupled with the problem of inadequate service conditions for the heads and tutors of the training institutions is their unfair placement and remuneration due to the lack of a career structure for them, inadequate residential accommodation facilities, inadequate teaching and learning materials, textbooks of current editions and inadequate clinical supervision of students.
It is for these reasons that the Conference of Heads of Health Training Institutions (COHHETI) is pursuing a number of interventions, including the creation of a separate career structure for tutors in health training institutions that will attract and retain tutors in the health training institutions.
One other intervention was the disbursement of 30 saloon cars under the staff vehicle Hire Purchase Scheme in 2008.
The COHHETI has also initiated moves to establish and inaugurate a Board of Governors for each of the Health Training Institutions (HTIs) to facilitate good governance and effective administration while urging the Ministry of Health to update all the computer laboratories in all HTIs with internet facilities and network the institutions to promote Distance Learning.
At its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in September 2009, COHHETI called on the Ministry of Health to draw up more attractive conditions of service for Heads and Tutors of HTIs to boost their morale, motivate them and enhance performance, thereby.
The COHHETI has also appealed to the Ministry of Health to employ more health tutors and equitably distribute them to the HTIs in order to address the tutor-student ratio disparity.
The Ministry has also been tasked to institute special incentive packages for tutors in less-endowed institutions so as to attract tutors to those schools.
Government must not hesitate to respond to these demands and must ensure that the capacity and competence to assess individual and the community’s total health needs and to promote healthy lifestyles are developed.
It is important to note, however, that Government has embarked upon measures to improve access to health services especially in the rural areas under the Community-Based Health Worker programme.
Government has also pledged to examine its strategy for producing the number and type of nurses based on specific needs as well as for managing the nation’s human resource to ensure that they deliver care to their maximum capabilities.
Quality nursing education for effective patient care is not an easy enterprise. It takes adequate resources – human, material and financial.
In providing quality nursing education, the training curriculum needs to be reviewed from time to time, based on programme evaluation, research and policy dynamics in the health sector.
Another critical component of quality nursing education is the assessment of students’ performance which calls for a dedicated and well-motivated teacher.
The HTIs must, therefore, have adequate staff in terms of numbers, qualifications and staff mix while the magnitude of responsibility requires that the institutions be headed by well-qualified persons.
The HTIs need adequate classrooms, well-stocked libraries, ICT centres, office and staff accommodation, not forgetting the need for a mechanism for the supervision of their performance on regular basis.
The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.