Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John (FP)

Government is about to introduce a new post basic nursing course in Gerontology at the Barbados Community College (BCC), starting from September, this year, to address the needs of Barbados’ ageing population.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, said the course, which will be facilitated by qualified personnel at the Geriatric Hospital, would improve the quality of care offered to the elderly.

"That is a very exciting thing for me and it is something I wanted to see from the time I became the CMO seven years ago because of the fact that [Barbados] is an ageing society and because of this whole thing about the best place to deliver services. Shouldn’t we have nurses who are better equipped to care for the older persons in the public institutions – the Geriatric Hospital and district hospitals?

"Some of the issues that are over at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital could be better managed in those facilities, it is just not a question of space. There is all this discussion about space and getting the extra beds and facilities but there is also quality of care," the CMO emphasised.

Acting Chief Nursing Officer, Pamela Augustin, explained that the course would be offered to registered nurses and once the necessary changes in the legislation were made, it would become the second qualification for nurses to reach the post of Sister in the geriatric setting. She said, before, all that was required was General Nursing and Midwifery or General Nursing and Psychology certificates.

However, since Gerontology would be the more appropriate qualification, Mrs. Augustin noted, the idea was to have Gerontology and General Nursing as the two major qualifications necessary for nurses to act in supervisory positions at geriatric hospitals.

The Acting Chief Nursing Officer acknowledged that there was a dearth of nurses trained in Gerontology in Barbados and the Ministry of Health had to hand-pick the first 15 nurses who would be enrolled in the course at the BCC.

"We will then ask for applicants and, in the near future, will be offering [the course] to nurses in the Caribbean. As far as I know, it is the first of its kind in the Caribbean. The Ministry of Health sent two nurses from the Geriatric Hospital to Jamaica to do their Masters in Geriatric Nursing; they will be the ones, along with another nurse trained in the United Kingdom, teaching the course. The curriculum has been developed and the Ministry of Health and the BCC are looking forward to starting the course," she said.

It will cover areas including: Fundamentals of Gerontological Nursing, Professionalism in Gerontological Nursing; Health Assessment and Promotion for the Elderly Client; Nutrition and the Elderly and Introduction to Evidence-based Practice. There will also be specialist courses such as: Geropharmacology; Geriatric Nursing; Geropathophysiology and Geropsychiatric Nursing. Other areas will address Law, Ethics, Policy and Management.

Mrs. Augustin explained that the overall objective of the Post Basic Nursing Course was to strengthen the provision of care and the quality of life for the elderly population in Barbados.

??"We don’t have many persons who specialise in Gerontology but we have a number of persons who are living much longer and we have a responsibility to train persons to look after such persons so, hence, the need for the course. It is a priority really," she said.


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