The Ministry of Education and Sports is considering clinical placements for student nurses and midwives at Lower Health Units, including Health Centre IVs and III.
Currently, clinical placements are restricted to district hospitals, regional referrals, and national referral hospitals. These placements provide invaluable hands-on practical skills to nurses, gained through real-life experiences in health institution settings.
With a rising number of health training institutions and increased student enrollment, the hospitals face a surge in graduating nurses, surpassing the capacity of regional and general hospitals nationwide. In light of this, the Ministry of Education was planning to suspend the registration and licensing for new nursing and midwifery institutions countrywide.
However, the Ministry of Health recently enhanced the functions of Health Centre IVs and IIIs, equipping them with the necessary functions for training, including the addition of inpatient wards.
Helen Mukakarisa Kataratambi, the Executive Secretary of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examination Board (UNMEB) says that If approved, the initiative would significantly enhance the acquisition of essential competencies by nurses.
“This matter has been deliberated within the inter-ministerial committee, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Health and Education. We have pinpointed the inclusion of these two health units in clinical placements as a solution to address the challenges related to numbers and to ensure that nurses acquire the necessary competencies,” Kataratambi said.
She adds that the expanded functions imply that students can now be placed in these institutions, alleviating the pressure previously placed on hospitals.
Kataratambi whose board oversees the assessment of students during this placement says that in addition to placing students at the said lower health units, there is also an ongoing review of the curriculum, which among other things, will also look at how the practicum and Clinical Placements are done.
She emphasizes that the review will result in discontinuing the practice of sending students to health units in a single group. Instead, the new approach involves students visiting health institutions in shifts, enabling them to acclimate to various times, including night shifts, which aligns with the demands of their future roles after training.
In a related development, the ministry is undertaking a review of admission guidelines to ensure the enrollment of only qualified students into the nursing profession.
Dr Safina Kisu Musene, the Director of HTVET, highlights existing gaps in the admission process that they aim to address, emphasizing the importance of admitting the right individuals into the course. She mentions that the ministry is actively revising many admission regulations, incorporating actions and penalties for school proprietors found violating admission requirements.
Currently, the practice mandates individuals seeking enrollment in health-related certificate courses, for example, in different institutions, to possess an O’Level Certificate with a minimum of passes in English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, all achieved in a single sitting.
However, there are additional non-academic requirements, such as the stipulation that candidates must be above the age of 18 and possess the ability to actively use all senses, given their critical importance during practical training. Musene adds that while many of these requirements are fundamental and well-known, numerous institutions have been found to admit students who do not meet the necessary criteria.
To address this, the new guidelines aim to be clear and precise regarding all the requirements expected of candidates before enrollment. In current practice, before UNMEB registers students for the first semester examinations, they must be verified by the Ministry of Education. However, instances have arisen where institutions were found to have illegal students.
In 2022, a large number of students from St. Francis School of Health Sciences, Mukono Diocese School of Nursing and Midwifery, and St. Elizabeth School of Health Professionals, all in Mukono district were discovered to be underage and were subsequently disqualified.
Meanwhile, nurses nationwide are currently taking their end-of-semester examinations. The examination process has undergone scrutiny from top officials of the Ministry of Education, including the Minister and the Permanent Secretary. These officials have actively visited various institutions alongside other UNMEB representatives to assess the board’s work.
During the monitoring activity on Wednesday, Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the Minister of State overseeing both primary and higher education portfolios, expressed her admiration for UNMEB’s proficient administration and management of the examinations.
Available data indicates that a total of 54,755 candidates from 121 centres have been registered to take part in the 36th UNMEB examination series, corresponding to the 12-semester examinations. The examination period is scheduled to run from December 4 to December 15, 2023.