Saturday, August 19, 2017

Healthy enrolments for medical courses

An employee at Thuriya pharmacy in Yankin township. Photo: Kaung HtetAn employee at Thuriya pharmacy in Yankin township. Photo: Kaung Htet

Short-term training programs in pharmacology and nursing are becoming increasingly popular because of strong job prospects for graduates, sources say.

There are about 30 training centres in this burgeoning but unregulated industry, offering courses that run from one month to six months, depending on the type of program.

“The demand for graduates from short courses is high because they are paid less than a professional nurse. It costs K6000 a day to hire a nurse to provide in-home care for an elderly or ill person. But those who have finished this type of program typically earn K2000 to K3000 a day,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Naing, the founder and chairman of the Aung Chan Myae training centre in Sanchaung township.

Shortly after U Kyaw Kyaw Naing established Aung Chan Myae in 2003, the school had only one class, with about 10 trainees. Enrolments grew steadily until after Cyclone Nargis, which hit the country in May 2008, when many schools experienced a rapid increase in applications.

“We now run seven classes a day with 20 trainees in each class. Trainees are normally aged from 20 to 40 years but we also see a handful of people who are 60, 70, and even older.”

With 47 branches, Aung Sakkyar is one of the larger private health education providers in the country. It has experienced an eight-fold expansion in enrolments over the past five years, managing director U Lin Zarni Shwe said last week.

He said the growth in private hospitals and clinics was fuelling demand for trained medical staff.

“In 2005, we had only 50 to 60 trainees a month at our centres but now more than 400 trainees attend courses at our 47 branches,” U Lin Zarni Shwe said. “Newly established private hospitals and clinics offer jobs to those with a diploma in pharmacology, for example.”

Providers usually charge K50,000 for a one-month program, K200,000 to K400,000 for a three-month course and K400,000 to K1 million for the six-month course.

Classes run from 9am to 5pm each day and are taught by graduates from the University of Nursing, doctors and experienced nurses.

Graduates receive a certificate upon completion but they receive no formal qualifications and often rely on training centres to place them in a job.

“We send four or five trainees to the clinics whenever they have a position to fill. They interview the applicants and select the most suitable person for the role, which can be marketing, reception or as an auxiliary nurse. They usually earn between K35,000 and K40,000 a month. Private hospitals and clinics ask us to help them fill about 150 to 200 positions a month. Sometimes, they request 20 or 25 staff in a single day,” U Kyaw Kyaw Naing said.

While the courses prepare students for work in the health care industry to some extent, they still have much to learn when they begin work.

“I have already finished [a pharmacology] course but I think practical experience is just as, if not more, important. There are so many kinds of medicine available locally and we have to know them all and their effects,” said Daw Kyein Kam Nam, the owner of Narkata pharmacy on 40th Street in Kyauktada township. “Customers don’t always know what’s best. For example, there are many types of paracetamol but most people just choose the brand they know.”

Most trainees are women but providers say they have seen more interest from men since Cyclone Nargis, because some undertake nursing degrees so they can work or volunteer with community-based organisations.

“When I graduated from university I naturally wanted to find a job related to my major. However, I have some financial difficulties so I decided to work as an auxiliary nurse,” said Ko Myo Myint Zaw, who is attending Aung Chan Myae. “I have formed a voluntary group with my friends to provide medical assistance to people in our ward. It’s not a formal organisation, just a group of people who want to help their neighbours.”

U Khin Thaung, 83, from Mingalardon township, said he was attending a combined nursing and pharmacology course at Aung Chan Myae “to gain knowledge about how to live healthily”.

“I’m attending with my eldest daughter, who is 60 years old,” he said. “But I think she’s a bit embarrassed to be studying with her father!” 

Translated by Yamon Phu Thit