According to Bhutan Medical and Health Council (BMHC), 76 Bhutanese nursing students studying in the state of Karnataka, India have to sit a competency examination to be able to work in Bhutan.

Indian media reports state that last December the Indian government issued two orders stating that approval from the Karnataka State Nursing council and Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences were enough to get Karnataka nursing colleges recognised following which Indian Nursing Council (INC) removed the colleges from its list of recognised institutions.

A notification issued by the Karnataka State Association of the Management of Nursing, and Allied Health Science Institutions on July 26, states that High Court of Karnataka, Kerala High Court, and Supreme Court of India has given a verdict saying INC can’t recognise or de-recognise any nursing institution without purview of the state and university. “The students who have passed from the state of Karnataka can re-register their nursing registration all over India and can work anywhere in India and abroad.”

With only about a month left before their examinations, Bhutanese nursing students in Karnataka are worried that without INC recognition they may not be able to practice medicine when they are back to Bhutan.

There are 76 nursing students studying in about nine different colleges in the state of Karnataka. 70 of them have gone through 10 different education consultancy and placement firms. Six students are undergoing their studies through government scholarship under Government of India funding.

Registrar with BMHC, Sonam Dorji, said students should not feel sad or be in doubt. “If they are not recognised by INC, that does not mean they will not be recognised by BMHC. If they are not recognised down there, we have a means of doing that here.”

He said there have been similar cases in the past where the colleges where de-recognised by the host country’s national council. BMHC conducted competency examinations to check if they will function as a qualified nurse or not. “All you have to do is wait because our action is going to be the same. If the students and universities are able to convince and get registration that’s fine, we will wait for that. If not we have already put in place what we will do.”

When medical students are sent abroad to study, medical related universities should be affiliated or recognised by the host country’s respective council such as Medical Council of India and INC for those studying in India. “We have an arrangement through the WHO South East Asia regional office, what we call medical council network,” he said. This means that the students who graduate from colleges approved by respective host country’s national councils will be given registration.

Sonam Dorji said this is because the main role of the council is to check and maintain the quality and standard of the nursing education and performance of the nurses.

He said private medical candidates who have gone on their own or through consultancies should fulfill minimum criteria.   “Other than MBBS, all medical students should have class 12 science pass certificate with minimum of 40 percent in science subjects for them to sit for the competency examination.” He added that those who have below 40 percent in science subjects will not be given registration by BMHC.

He said that if the situation remains the same with the nursing colleges in Karnataka, all the four batches of nursing students will be given an opportunity to sit for the competency examination. However, registration will not be given for nursing students who might go to nursing colleges in Karnataka hence forth.

Sonam Dorji said if the students do not feel comfortable sitting the examination right after they get back to Bhutan, they will be given an opportunity to remain attached in a hospital for few months under provisional registration. The students are given two chances to appear for a competency examination. The students will be given the opportunity of attachment in hospitals even for the second chance. “Our responsibility is to inform all relevant stakeholders not to send students there. Those who are already there, we will give them an opportunity to sit for a competency examination,” he added.

He said BMHC is in dialogue with Royal Civil Service Commission to make all the medical students who fulfil the eligibility criteria to sit a licensing examination from next year. “Anybody wishing to practice in Bhutan, will have to fulfill BMHC’s requirements.”

Karma Cheki