Tension mounts within the nursing community of Nigeria as members of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) gear up for a potential clash with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) over newly introduced guidelines for certificate verification. This development comes in the wake of the deactivation of the NMCN verification portal since December 2023, which nursing practitioners perceive as an obstruction to their freedom to explore career opportunities abroad and suspect it to be linked with the Federal Government’s agenda to curb the exodus of health workers seeking better prospects overseas.
The history of brain drain within the Nigerian medical industry, particularly in nursing, dates back several years, marked by a significant surge in the migration of nurses and midwives in search of better working conditions and remuneration abroad. According to data from the NANNM, over 75,000 nurses and midwives left Nigeria within a span of five years prior to 2023, citing factors such as insecurity, poor wages, and inadequate work environments as primary motivators for seeking opportunities elsewhere. This mass exodus has exacerbated the existing shortage of healthcare workers in the country, posing grave challenges to the delivery system and resulting in limited access to quality care for many Nigerians.
NANNM president on the impact of brain drain, new guidelines spark issues.
President of the NANNM, Michael Nnachi, highlighted the detrimental effects of this brain drain on the healthcare workforce, stressing the strain it places on remaining nurses who are often overworked and undercompensated, thus compromising the quality of healthcare services. In response to the escalating crisis, the association issued a memorandum dated February 7, 2024, outlining revised guidelines for certificate verification for nurses and midwives. The memo stipulated criteria such as a minimum of two years of post-qualification experience, possession of an active practicing license with at least six months to expiration, and a specified fee for verification applications to foreign nursing boards.
Furthermore, applicants were required to provide letters of good standing from their respective workplaces and training institutions. However, the introduction of these stringent guidelines has been met with widespread condemnation and resistance from nurses across the country. Many perceive the directive as an infringement on their basic rights and an attempt to impede their professional mobility. Social media platforms have been abuzz with calls for protest and mobilization against the NMCN’s directives, with nurses in various states organizing rallies and planning demonstrations to voice their discontent.
Nationwide mobilization of nurses against the council’s directives.
In Lagos, nurses have announced plans to stage a protest at the NMCN office in Yaba, while similar actions are being organized in other states, including Abuja. Nurses have taken to online platforms to garner support and raise awareness about the perceived injustice, emphasizing the need for collective action to challenge the council’s directives. Michael Nnachi, speaking on behalf of the nursing community, expressed deep concern over the implications of the NMCN’s directives, describing them as discouraging and frustrating for practicing nurses, student nurses, and aspiring professionals alike.
He emphasized the importance of addressing the underlying issues driving the brain drain, such as poor working conditions and inadequate remuneration, calling on the government to prioritize the welfare of nurses and implement measures to retain healthcare professionals within the country. In a bid to resist the council’s directives, nurses have mobilized through various channels, including WhatsApp groups and radio appearances, to voice their opposition and demand a reversal of the guidelines. The Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa chapter of the NANNM, issued a statement condemning the directives as detrimental to the welfare and rights of Nigerian nurses, urging the national headquarters of the association to intervene and safeguard the interests of its members.
Related Article: 150 nurses resigned from LASUTH in 3 years
Similarly, nursing chapters in Ebonyi and Ondo states have rejected the guidelines, citing concerns about their impact on nurses’ rights and autonomy. They have called for a review of the directives and urged the government to focus on addressing the root causes of the brain drain rather than imposing restrictive measures on healthcare professionals. Amidst mounting tension and discontent within the nursing community, the onus lies on stakeholders, including the government, regulatory bodies, and professional associations, to engage in constructive dialogue and formulate policies that prioritize the welfare and interests of healthcare workers. Only through collaborative efforts can Nigeria address the challenges of brain drain and build a sustainable healthcare system that meets the needs of its population.