When will the investigation into the nurses’ final exam be concluded?

Dear Editor,

As the general public has been made aware via various media, the Professional Nursing Final Examination was reported as having been compromised. After two months of waiting for the investigation to conclude, we the students feel the need to share our story before any action is taken.

On November 12, 2016, two hundred and fifty nursing students who wrote the nursing state finals examination Func-tional papers 1 and 2, and Clinical papers 1 and 2 on October 18 and 19, 2016, were asked to attend an urgent meeting at their respective schools. During this meeting a letter was read which stated that the theoretical aspect of the nursing examination finals mentioned above was compromised and we would be required to re-sit this examination on a date unknown, (what was mentioned in the letter was November 2016) and at a venue also unknown to us, where all 250 nursing students would need to be in attendance. Upon hearing this, many questions were asked, but no satisfactory answers were given. When and how this paper was compromised were the two most important questions asked by the students, to which the various principal tutors were unable or refused to respond.

In our dissatisfied and disgruntled state we decided to seek answers. We were advised by persons in authority to seek assistance from the student council committee, since they represented all the nursing students countrywide. However, to our surprise there was no such body in existence, so a few students suggested that such a body should be set up. In an attempt to form such a committee, a group of courageous nursing students from the Georgetown Nursing School decided to visit the different nursing schools countrywide to ask representatives to form the committee and strategize plans for a way forward.

However, these representatives were faced with many challenges, the first of these being at the Berbice School of Nursing. After arriving to speak to the principal tutor and the students there, they were chased out of the building since the principal tutor felt that it was illegal for students to speak to their colleagues without permission from their principal tutor. This was in clear violation of the right of freedom of speech, and to this day these representatives are still unable to speak with these students since they were instructed not to speak to members of the various schools, and were told that they would have to re-sit the exam, a decision which could not be contested. Every attempt to reach out to these students has been futile except for three students who were not present that day.

Upon arrival at the Charles Roza School of Nursing in Linden, we were able to speak to the principal tutor as well as a few students. This was not without clearly stating our intention to make sure that what we said was true and just.

After the expansion of the committee, we were able to speak to the previous Minister of Public Health, Dr George Norton, who launched an investigation into the matter of the examination, since he was given unsatisfactory answers as well. It has been two months now and still this investigation is yet to be concluded. However, it has been confirmed that the examination was indeed compromised and that less than 5% of students and an undetermined number of council members had been involved.

We ask people to bear in mind whether all the students should be penalized for a few dishonest people. In our opinion, we don’t think that is fair. Those persons should be isolated and dealt with accordingly, and not the students who were unaware of the exam breach.

We are aware that this compromise not only affects the students, but the general public as well. There are persons who are desperately awaiting our care, persons who place their lives in our hands, and persons who have to be fully dependent on us and trust that we are knowledgeable enough to provide adequate care. This compromise also affects us globally, in terms of our accreditation by other medical agencies such as PAHO/WHO, institutions such as UWI and other universities, and business entities who may want to employ our services.

Last but not least, our nursing image has been sullied, since the council has been rumoured to have had compromised papers in the past and licensed nurses who have previously written their exams will be scrutinized. If we the students who wrote this exam on October 18 and 19 are to re-sit it, will we be the only nurses who are trusted to provide care? We don’t think so.  Our superiors and other senior nurses were licensed under the same council which is now under investigation. Pressuring the students to re-sit in an already disturbed emotional state will not prove anything if the culprits have already been caught. Why is it that they are employing the ‘Peter pay for Paul’ method?

Students have been affected both psychologically and physiologically; some students are severely depressed, stressed, confused and disappointed. One student in particular was hospitalized for hypertension. These same students are asked to provide care to the general public. Our motto at the Georgetown Public Hospital is “We Care”. If we cannot care for ourselves and our own, how can we care for others?

In conclusion, we have waited a long time for this investigation to be concluded and every day we are faced with questions that we are unable to answer. We are pleading with the general public and our new Minister of Public Health to please resolve this issue as soon as possible so that we may have our results and move forward in our noble career choice.

Yours faithfully,

(Name and address provided)

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