Nine months after a promise that they would once more get a Government stipend to ease the financial burden of full time study, student nurses are yet to receive the money.
And the Barbados Nurses’ Association (BNA), management of the Barbados Community College (BCC) and student nurses themselves are hoping that the current administration will make good on its promise.
Last February, Minister of Health and Wellness Ian Gooding-Edghill announced that Government would re-introduce the stipend some eight years after it was stopped and at a cost to taxpayers of $2 million annually.
On Monday following a scholarship award ceremony at the college, members of the nursing community renewed the call for the financial help.
“Since 2017, we have been advocating as the Barbados Nurses’ Association for the stipend to recommence to nursing students so that it could assist them with their studies. Leaving school and coming to study is hard; they have to travel to different health institutions as part of their studies.
“Also, the books and the materials that you have to acquire when you want to be a nurse are not cheap. We were told that it would be reinstated so we are waiting for the stipend to be reinstated to the nursing students of all years,”said president of the BNA Valerie Francis-Miller.
Deputy principal of BCC Dr Cheryl Weekes said the campus had already submitted the necessary information to start the process.
She too conceded that it was difficult being a student nurse since the financial requirements of the study could put strain on them.
“What I can say from the college’s standpoint is that the ministry has indeed been in touch with us and we have provided the necessary information in terms of the names of the students and the information they require in order to process the stipend. We are thankful that this is going to be reinstated because we know that it will go a long way to help the students in their profession reaching that level,” she said.
“Being a student and studying nursing is very difficult. It is not an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. kind of study programme in the sense that the students have to do clinicals and those clinicals can run till 9 p.m. because they try to work to shifts.
“It is difficult for a student to be here full time going into the clinical area and then working another job unable to sustain themselves.”
In February, Gooding-Edghill said in a press statement that first-year nursing students would be paid a stipend of $458.89 per month; second-years $578.53; third-years $698.16 and fourth-years $798.16.
To maintain the stipend, the nursing students would be required to maintain passing grades for all courses according to the criteria set by the BCC. They would also be placed on a two-year Government performance bond after completion of their four-year nursing degree.
The minister said he hoped the stipend would take pressure off the students and their families and lead to an increase in the number of nurses.
Weekes said that the stipend could encourage more people to study nursing especially in light of the on-going nursing shortage.
“It would be an incentive also, for more persons to join the profession to join the training, at least because they know that the challenges of not having the finances would be alleviated to a certain extent . . . So this is coming at an opportune time when we know that we have a shortage of nurses. Having an incentive will encourage more persons, younger persons, to pursue nursing as a career.”
Francis-Miller said nurses also needed more incentives in the form of educational and career development opportunities.
“Migration is something that has been happening in Barbados for years. It has not just started. Nurses are continuing to migrate and we have, as a nurses’ association, been asking and advocating for incentives to help keep our nurses here. We would like some more incentives.”
Second year student nurse Aldaro Blackman agreed that the programme was financially difficult especially when travel costs and book and equipment expenses are factored in.
He said: “Nursing as a major is very expensive.”
There are close to 400 student nurses training at BCC.