At least 326 people will miss out on exams that would see them licensed to practice nursing and midwifery profession in the country over what the Rwanda National Council of Nurses and Midwives (NCNM) says is their failure to meet minimum standards.
The exams began yesterday, August 1, and are expected to go on until August 4.
According to the council, the majority of the rejected applicants have no background in sciences, especially in subjects like biology and chemistry, which are crucial for anyone to undertake this profession.
The action follows recent concerns raised by the council over some schools, mainly in neighbouring countries, that admit students without considering their academic backgrounds.
Such cases are rampant among Rwandans who choose to cross the border and attend college from neighbouring countries to study nursing.
“For instance, someone with an accounting background goes on to study nursing outside the country and they are admitted, then return home seeking a practicing license. Those are the kind of issues we are dealing with,” said Agnes Uwayezu, the chairperson of NCNM.
Uwayezu said in an interview that denying them sitting the exams is in line with the laws regulating the nursing and midwifery profession in the country, saying that all these are measures to protect people’s lives.
Some of those who were denied were already practicing and these recently petitioned the Prime Minister pleading for his intervention.
“We shall not succumb to undue pressure just because people have petitioned the Prime Minister. We have regulations to follow and the overall aim is to protect the lives of patients,” she said.
Uwayezu said the council only came into existence in 2009 to regulate nursing and midwifery profession, yet the profession started long before.
“I think that is how some people entered the profession without licenses, but time has come for them to get licensed and they have to fulfill the requirements before they can get to sit for the exam.
She said the employers, including public and private hospitals, health centres, pharmacies, and clinics, should give information about workers who do not have a practicing license and should assess all the applications on whether they fulfill the requirements before taking them on.
She noted that this is a complex problem which concerns the workers, the schools they studied from, the institutions in charge of education, the entire health sector as well as regulators.
“We need to collectively work towards seeking a lasting solution to avoid similar cases in the future,” she said.
Sophie Furaha is a nurse who completed college in 2013.
She studied nursing at Institut Supérieur Technique et Social de Goma. She said she had studied Mathematics, Physics and Geography at the advanced level of high school.
She told The New Times that she had since been practicing nursing at a health centre in Nyanza District.
“Previously, a person studied any subject they wanted after which they would specialise in nursing at college level. The move prohibiting us to work as nurses is quite surprising; it would have been better if they had informed us beforehand,” she said.
Frank Mamo is a graduate from the Université Ouverte de Goma where, in 2009, he obtained a diploma in general nursing.
At high school he had studied literature and languages.
Since completing his studies, he has been a data manager at a health centre.
“I submitted my documents to the council in February and they gave me a number and I received a text message confirming that I had been added on the list of those to sit for the exam. But later, they changed it saying that we were not allowed to sit the exam because we did not study sciences,” he said.
Dieudonné Irizabimbuto, the public petitions officer at the Prime Minister’s Office, told The New Times last week that some nurses had indeed petitioned the Premier seeking his intervention.
“They argue that their degrees are approved by government and that the Higher Education Council has no problem with them, but NCNM, which is an independent body in charge of safeguarding the profession, says they do not qualify to practice nursing since they do not have science background,” he noted, adding that the concerned ministries, including that of Health and that of Education, are working to find a solution.
Meanwhile, according to figures from the council, 1,000 candidates were approved to sit for their licensing exams.
The council gives the entry exams twice a year. The first one was done in February.
According to the recent data from NCNM, there are 10,639 registered nurses and midwives in the country.