Nigerian Nurses Exodus Sparks Debate on Welfare and Regulation

ABUJA, Nigeria: A surge in Nigerian nurses and midwives leaving the country for better opportunities abroad is raising concerns about their working conditions and sparking debate over regulatory measures.

Over 15,000 nurses and midwives left Nigeria in 2023 alone, according to Faruk Abubakar, Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). This follows a trend of increasing departures, with 42,000 leaving in the past three years.

These figures come amid protests by nurses against the NMCN’s new guidelines for verifying foreign nursing board certificates, which require two years of post-qualification experience. Nurses criticize this requirement as hindering their career progression and further fueling their desire to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Abubakar, addressing the issue on national television, acknowledged the growing exodus and attributed it to various factors, including better working conditions, allowances, and salaries offered in other countries. He emphasized that the Federal Ministry of Health is working to improve these aspects through better equipment, conducive work environments, and potential salary revisions.

However, his comments suggesting that the government is “doing a lot” and that the salary issue is a “general phenomenon” faced by all sectors drew criticism from some. Critics argue that the specific challenges faced by nurses, including demanding work and high patient-to-nurse ratios, require targeted solutions beyond general government initiatives.

The Nigerian Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) also highlighted its efforts in advocating for improved welfare for its members. Recent discussions with the Minister of Health offer some hope for progress.

The situation highlights the complex issue of balancing regulatory measures with the need to retain skilled healthcare professionals. While ensuring quality standards is crucial, addressing concerns about working conditions and career advancement remains equally important to stop the exodus of vital healthcare personnel.

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