Indonesian nursing students to assist overwhelmed health workers

A nurse from Chasbullah Abdulmajid General Hospital in Bekasi, West Java, examines a patient suspected to have Covid-19 on the bed of a pickup truck on June 25. The patient's family used the truck to transport her to the hospital because no other vehicle was available. She had experienced breathing difficulties, vomiting and fatigue for days, her family said, - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, Aug 1 (Jakarta Post/ANN): The government is planning to send more final year nursing students and graduates who have yet to be certified to the front lines of the pandemic to reduce the burden on overwhelmed health workers.

The nursing students will monitor coronavirus patients with mild symptoms, while the graduates will assist with basic nursing tasks at Covid-19 health facilities.

They will not tend to patients directly without supervision.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in July that Indonesia needed some 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more doctors as the second wave of the pandemic continued.

As of Sunday, at least 1,636 health workers – mostly doctors and nurses – have lost their lives to the virus, according to independent data initiative LaporCOVID-19.

July saw the highest monthly death rate for frontline health workers with 365 deaths, more than four times the June figure.

The government has continued to add health facilities for Covid-19 patients, including makeshift isolation centers and emergency hospitals.

The number of isolation and ICU beds has grown from around 45,000 during the first surge of cases late last year to 130,000 currently.

Some 11,000 of these are ICU beds. Yet bed occupancy in regions outside Java remains high, with eight provinces recording occupancy rates above 70 per cent, although the rates in Java have generally decreased.

According to a Health Ministry circular issued in December 2020, final year medical students may be deployed for Covid-19 support if there is a shortage of health workers in a region. The circular stipulates that the students must be supervised by professional health workers.

It does not specify which students are eligible. But according to Health Ministry spokesperson Siti Nadia Tarmizi, intern doctors, nursing students, pharmacy students and public health students are all eligible.

“All [departments] can employ students, but they have to be under the supervision of senior health workers because they haven't graduated so they can't do anything alone,” Nadia said last week

Health Ministry data shows that approximately 19,000 nursing students are in their final year of studies this year, while Indonesian National Nurse Association (PPNI) chairman Harif Fadhilah said some 33,000 nursing graduates had passed competency exams this year, increasing the number of employable certified nurses.

Budi said he had spoken with the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry about the need to accelerate the placement of final year nursing students into pandemic response positions.

He also suggested that student involvement should be counted as extra academic credit. - Jakarta Post/ANN

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