100 nurses quit and seek overseas jobs amid pandemic

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Nurses protest for better wages and working conditions at Arima hospital on June 15, 2020. – File photo / Ayanna Kinsale

More than 100 nurses have left the healthcare system in search of overseas employment in the past year, according to Letitia Cox, second vice president of the TT Registered Nurses Association.

She said recruiters, mainly from the UK, but also from Canada and the US, have poached nurses from TT and the Caribbean because of their excellent training, and nurses are seizing the opportunity for better conditions.

“There has been a drastic increase in recruitment since the pandemic. These countries are sorely understaffed and are recruiting nurses to empower their health systems which have been overwhelmed by the increase in infections from covid19 patients. “

Recruiters require registered nurses, mental health nurses, midwives and registered practical nurses, and specialized training is an asset.

According to the association, this year alone 48 registered nurses from the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) have resigned and left the country. There were 21 of the Accident and Emergency and Pediatric Departments of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, 25 of the General Hospitals of Port of Spain and St Ann, six of the Accident and Emergencies Department of Tobago, and plus other RRSs and departments.

She said there are many issues within the health care system that need to be addressed but which have been ignored. Cox said the problem of staff hemorrhages will persist once nurses and midwives, who have given selflessly for years, remain miserable and unable to care for their families and loved ones,

She said some reliable nurses are put off because they only get short-term contracts and no job security. In addition, the Prime Minister’s Dec. 18 announcement that civil servants, including nurses, had to be vaccinated to work or stay home without pay by mid-January caused a lot of anxiety as the Most of the unvaccinated nurses were scared.

A nurse holds placards during a protest at St Ann’s Mental Hospital against temporary employment and poor working conditions on June 24, 2020 – File Photo / Ayanna Kinsale

In some RHAs, only one in two health workers is vaccinated.

“I think they would have done better with additional guidance and persuasion rather than a bossy approach.

“I hear the government talking about contingencies and who it is going to seize and withdraw staff from if there is a massive fallout from the leave policy. They speak as if everyone can be easily replaced. But, unless they accept nursing students, they will replace them with less skilled and less experienced people.

“Patients will not receive the quality care they normally would get. And I think that’s maybe one of the reasons a lot of people die from covid – because our hospitals, community centers, and facilities are sorely understaffed and under-resourced. “

Mental health nurse: more opportunities in the UK

Although he had no problems with working conditions at TT, mental health nurse Darius Mollineau left the country in September to work in the UK to gain additional academic and professional experience.

“In Trinidad you would reach a certain level and basically that’s it, and there are only a limited number of positions available for the many qualified people in Trinidad. But abroad there are more opportunities.

The TT Registered Nurses Association reports that more than 100 nurses have left TT overseas since the pandemic began in 2020. – File photo / Angelo Marcelle

At TT he was a permanent registered mental health nurse with the North West RHA. After training as a District Health Visitor, he obtained a temporary contract as an Interim District Nurse. He worked for the RHA for 11 years.

He now works in a private hospital funded by the National Health Service (NHS) in Somerset.

Mollineau, 37, told Newsday on Sunday that he saw advertisements on Facebook for healthcare professional recruiting agencies and that he applied in December 2020. He was contacted the next day. However, TT was on lockdown at the time, so he was unable to obtain all the necessary documents.

He explained that these agencies would send the relevant information to hospitals or trusts, and that the facilities would interview the requester to determine if it was appropriate.

Despite the delay, he was hired and the agency helped him get his work permit. They also paid for her UK nursing registration exam, exam training, visa appointment, plane ticket, quarantine, meals, six weeks accommodation , a welcome bonus of £ 2,000 for the move, and his new salary is about TT $ 100,000 a year more than him. received in TT.

He also thinks the UK’s covid19 management system was better. Although the UK has something similar to TT’s parallel healthcare system where separate areas are set up to treat covid19 patients, there are more areas to treat different levels of disease. And there is dedicated staff to serve those areas rather than turning people in and out of covid19 areas.

He added that the government provides hospital staff with covid19 rapid test kits. Staff should test themselves twice a week and submit results online.

He also appreciated the fact that UK medical staff were more vaccination compliant and continually received email updates on the latest developments in covid19.

Mollineau said UK hospitals typically ask for at least 18 months of experience, but that stipulation has been lifted. So in 2020, with many nursing students not getting jobs in the TT, a large group of newly registered nurses who never made it to the job market came to the UK. . to work.

“There are also senior nurses who have 20 years of experience. It was a shock to me because at 20 you are on your way to retirement. But imagine being a basic nurse for 20 years because you can only have a limited number of head nurses, clinical instructors, supervisors, lecturers. You end up with a lot of trained staff who don’t use their skills.

He told the story of a nurse who started out as a level five nurse, a general nurse position, and in less than two years she was promoted to nurse at seven, which is equivalent to a nurse manager of care primary workers working in communities. He said it would probably have taken him 20 years to be successful in TT.

In addition, UK hospitals encourage continuing education to stay on the register for nurses and once a nurse is qualified she is promoted.

Mollineau initially said he intended to return to TT with more experience and new ideas for improving the healthcare system at the end of his three-year contract. However, when he requested unpaid leave, he was told he had to resign even though he then indicated that he intended to work overseas and return to the benefit of the RHA.

Now that he has no more jobs to return to, he plans to stay in the UK and eventually gain permanent resident status there.

“I don’t intend to grow old in this cold place. I just wanted to live the experience and be able to compare it to TT because I believe in improving nursing and wanted to give back. But now that I’m here, I might as well get the most out of the system.

Registered nurse: Temporary contracts, no benefits

Another registered nurse, who wished to remain unidentified, said she quit the North Central RHA in July and began working at a public hospital in Swindon, UK, in October.

When she graduated and became a registered nurse in 2016, she updated her LinkedIn profile, an online professional networking and career development service, and was immediately contacted by many recruiters in the UK. .

At the time, she was not interested in leaving the country and worked for the NCRHA from 2017 to 2021, first as a surgical nurse and then as a nurse in the ophthalmology department.

“Then, as I continued my career at North Central (RHA), I realized that even if you applied for positions, they weren’t sending anyone from the area to take the necessary courses. “

She also performed additional duties in the pediatric emergency room and requested to be transferred there, but this was not granted. Thus, not only did she not have the right to access more training or gain more experience in another department, but she was also on a temporary contract and therefore had no benefits.

She said there had been many times when she was the only nurse working on a ward when a nurse should never be alone on a ward. She once recalled that she and a patient care assistant (CPA), who is not licensed to perform medical duties, had to care for 24 patients.

“There was one night when I was working with a PCA who was handing out drugs room by room. When I reached the last room, a lady was crashing (having a sudden change in health). Fortunately, just as I was about to call for help, the manager came in and was able to help me. If she hadn’t come in then, what would my situation have been? This endangers the lives of the patients and my license.

“In the end, it just didn’t make sense.”

Two of her cousins ​​who were nurses had left TT to work in the UK and encouraged her to leave the country. Eventually, she decided that moving would be better for her and her family.

At the hospital she works for in Swindon, there is a senior nurse, two registered nurses and two support staff in an 18-bed area so they are better able to meet the needs of patients.

At TT she worked 40 hours a week while at Swindon she works 37 and a half hours a week for three days with four days off, allowing her to do extra chores and work overtime. And although she has a three-year contract, this is a permanent position with vacation, benefits, tips and board.

She is also impressed with the cleanliness of the services, the response of doctors to emergencies, the food in the hospital and the training of the staff.

“Since I arrived, I have had mandatory training to do online. And they’re going to train us to do intravenous cannulas, to draw blood and all the things that we would have to pay for ourselves if we wanted to train in Trinidad.

“I plan to stay here. Even my daughter who is nursing in Trinidad and is in her second year, she will follow me here after doing a few years of service.

Her husband and two other children will move to Swindon to be with her next year.


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