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Nigeria Halts New Nurse Verification Rules Amid Protests

Controversial Guidelines Paused for Legislative Review, Spark Debate

by Adenike Adeodun

The House of Representatives in Nigeria has taken a decisive step against the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) by ordering an immediate halt to the implementation of new certificate verification guidelines for nurses. These guidelines, set to commence on March 1, 2024, have stirred considerable unrest among healthcare professionals, particularly in the nursing sector.

The NMCN’s revised guidelines mandated that individuals seeking certificate verification with foreign nursing boards or councils must possess at least two years of post-qualification experience subsequent to the issuance of their permanent practicing license. This move by the NMCN was met with widespread criticism and led to protests, with many viewing the requirement as restrictive, arbitrary, and unjust. Critics argue that this stipulation unnecessarily hampers nurses’ aspirations for further education, training, or career advancement abroad.

Prompted by the urgency of the matter, Patrick Umoh, representing Akwa Ibom under the APC banner, sponsored a motion that was promptly adopted by the House. The motion called for the House Committee on Health Institutions to delve into the controversy and present its findings. The essence of this directive underscores the legislative body’s concern over policies that could potentially stifle the professional growth and mobility of Nigerian nurses.

Umoh highlighted that the enactment of the Nursing and Midwifery (Registration, etc.) Act, Cap. N143, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, by the National Assembly was originally intended to regulate and oversee nursing and midwifery practices within the country. However, the introduction of the revised guidelines, particularly the contentious two-year post-qualification experience requirement, has been perceived as a deviation from the Act’s intended purpose.

The guidelines also stipulated that applicants must secure a letter of good standing from both the Chief Executive Officer of their current or last place of employment and the last educational institution they attended. Moreover, the processing of applications was to extend over a minimum period of six months, adding another layer of bureaucratic delay to nurses’ career progression.

The backlash from the health professional community, spearheaded by the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, underscores the depth of discontent with the revised guidelines. The association and its members argue that the verification of certificates should serve merely to confirm and authenticate existing qualifications rather than act as a barrier to professional development and international mobility.

This scenario brings to light several critical issues within Nigeria’s healthcare system, particularly concerning the regulatory environment governing nursing professionals. The resistance to the NMCN’s new guidelines is not just about the specifics of the requirements but also reflects broader concerns over policies that may inadvertently limit the sector’s capacity to grow, innovate, and meet international standards.

The requirement for two years of post-qualification experience, while intended to ensure that nurses have adequate practical experience before practicing abroad, has been criticized for its one-size-fits-all approach. This policy does not account for the individual circumstances of nurses, their career aspirations, or the opportunities for growth and learning that exist beyond Nigeria’s borders.

The House of Representatives’ intervention highlights a critical juncture in the discourse on healthcare regulation and the professional development of nurses in Nigeria. It raises questions about the balance between ensuring quality healthcare delivery through regulation and allowing healthcare professionals the freedom to pursue opportunities that enhance their skills, knowledge, and global competitiveness.

As the House Committee on Health Institutions undertakes its investigation into the matter, the outcomes of this inquiry could have far-reaching implications for healthcare policy, nursing practice, and the broader trajectory of healthcare development in Nigeria. The challenge lies in crafting policies that safeguard the quality of healthcare while fostering an environment conducive to professional growth, innovation, and the international exchange of knowledge and skills among healthcare professionals.

The unfolding debate over the NMCN’s revised guidelines is a microcosm of the broader challenges facing healthcare regulation and professional development in Nigeria. It underscores the need for a regulatory approach that is both flexible and nuanced, recognizing the diverse pathways through which nurses can contribute to healthcare delivery both within Nigeria and on the global stage. As this issue continues to evolve, it will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of nursing practice and healthcare policy in Nigeria, with implications for the quality of care, professional mobility, and the international standing of Nigerian healthcare professionals.


Source: The Guardian

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