Due to new certificate verification guidelines, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) faces confrontation with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). The frustration stems from the NMCN verification portal’s deactivation since December 2023, a move nurses claim is designed to obstruct their career progression abroad, suggesting it aligns with the Federal Government’s efforts to curb the emigration of health workers.
The NMCN, tasked with ensuring safe and effective nursing and midwifery care, has introduced revised guidelines for certificate verification, demanding a minimum of two years post-qualification experience and a permanent practising license for eligibility. This memo, issued on February 7, 2024, and effective from March 1, 2024, has sparked outrage among nurses, who view it as a violation of their rights and a demeaning stance towards their profession.
In 2023, NANNM reported that over 75,000 nurses and midwives had left Nigeria in the past five years, driven by poor wages, unsafe work environments, and a lack of professional respect. This mass exodus exacerbates the country’s health worker shortage, placing additional strain on those remaining. Michael Nnachi, President of NANNM, highlighted the dire conditions nurses face, including stagnant salaries amidst rising living costs, contributing to the ongoing brain drain.
The new verification process, requiring a refundable fee and a letter of good standing from employers, has been met with plans for protests in Lagos and Abuja. Nurses argue that these measures are embarrassing and aim to frustrate their aspirations for better opportunities abroad. Nnachi calls for the Federal Government to improve working conditions and remuneration to deter nurses from leaving the country.
Nurses across Nigeria are mobilizing through social media and WhatsApp groups, planning rallies and media appearances to voice their discontent. State chapters of NANNM have rejected the directive, emphasizing the need for the government to focus on enhancing the nursing profession’s conditions rather than imposing restrictive measures.
The recent uproar within the nursing community over the NMCN’s new verification guidelines is a testament to the broader issues plaguing Nigeria’s healthcare system. While understandable, the government’s attempt to stem the tide of health workers leaving the country misses the mark by not addressing the root causes of this exodus. Nurses, integral to the healthcare delivery system, are voicing their discontent over a procedural change and a systemic disregard for their welfare and professional growth.
We stand in solidarity with the nurses’ demands for a more equitable and respectful treatment. As they stand, the guidelines are symptomatic of a deeper malaise within the healthcare sector—a lack of investment in human resources. The brain drain in healthcare is not merely a matter of policy but of failing to provide a conducive environment for professional fulfilment and personal well-being.
The government and regulatory bodies must recognize that restrictive measures will not solve the underlying issues. Instead, a comprehensive approach is needed, including competitive remuneration, safe working conditions, and opportunities for professional development. Such measures would retain and attract talent, reversing the current trend of healthcare professionals seeking opportunities abroad.
As we advocate for these changes, it’s crucial to remember the human element at the heart of this issue. Nurses are not just healthcare providers but individuals with aspirations, families, and financial responsibilities. Their treatment reflects the value we place on healthcare and, by extension, on the well-being of our society. The path forward should be one of dialogue, respect, and mutual understanding, ensuring that the nursing profession in Nigeria is as rewarding as it is essential.
Did You Know?
- Nigeria faces one of the highest rates of healthcare worker emigration in Africa, with the UK being a top destination for Nigerian nurses.
- The World Health Organization recommends a minimum healthcare worker-to-population ratio that Nigeria currently does not meet, partly due to emigration.
- Nurses and midwives constitute the most prominent healthcare professionals in many countries, playing a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment.
- Verifying nursing and midwifery certificates internationally is a common practice to ensure that healthcare professionals meet the host country’s standards.
- The concept of “brain drain” in healthcare affects the availability of healthcare services and the quality of care provided to patients, highlighting the global challenge of ensuring equitable healthcare workforce distribution.