As we start the year, we continue our series focusing on the work of the NMBI Board. In this issue, we speak with Joseph Shalbin Kallarakkal, Board member and member of the Midwives Committee and Registration Committee.
Could you tell our readers about your background and your career to date?
I am from India and from my student life onwards I was engaged in various voluntary activities, which led me towards nursing. One occasion I still remember vividly is when I helped a road traffic accident victim to get to hospital. This and other experiences have led me to choose nursing as a profession.
I completed my nursing education in 2007 and as I was interested in emergency nursing, I began my career working in an emergency department. Later, I believed I would be good working in a management role and completed an MBA in healthcare service management. During this time, I joined a multi-specialty hospital as an Operations Manager. The hospital was going through an accreditation process with the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH), which is similar to HIQA in Ireland, and I played a pivotal role in achieving the accreditation. In 2017, I returned to clinical practice with the aim of relocating to Ireland and the following year, I began working in the emergency department at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. I am currently working in Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan and also doing a post graduate programme in emergency nursing in DKIT.
I was elected as a Vice Chair of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) international section in 2020 and I was elected to the Board of NMBI as a representative from the practice of general nursing in the same year, taking up the role in 2021.
You recently joined the Board of NMBI. Why did you choose to run for election?
As I mentioned earlier, I relocated to Ireland in 2018 and I continued engaging with various voluntary activities in India and in Ireland. When I arrived here I noticed that overseas nurses and midwives are coming to Ireland with two different work permits, doing the same job and earning the same salary. Unfortunately, my general work permit had fewer benefits than a critical skills permit and as a result, I had to wait a year before my family could also relocate to Ireland with me. While my spouse is well educated, she cannot work here and I was very concerned about this. When I looked into the rules, I noticed that the current system began about 2015 and since then many overseas nurses and midwives have faced difficulties due to this practice. Therefore, I started a campaign focusing on the problems facing overseas nurses and midwives. I wrote hundreds of letters and attended many meetings to highlight this issue and find a solution. As a result of this work, at the end of 2019 the Government realised the disparity and amended the law. Now, all overseas nurses and midwives come to Ireland on a single work permit system which is beneficial to all. Due to the work I engaged in, I became known amongst nurses and midwives and I was elected as a Vice Chair of the international section of the INMO. Later, when NMBI published a call for expressions of intertest to join the work of the Board, I was selected as a candidate from the general nursing practice and was subsequently elected to the NMBI Board.
What has your experience as a Board member been so far?
I am a new NMBI Board member and this is the first time I have been part of a professional regulator in Ireland. As a person like me who comes from a different country, joining a regulator was frightening experience, but the support I have received from the whole team has been exceptional. Every day I am on the Board is a learning experience and by being part of the decision-making process, I have gained significant knowledge. The experience I have gained has helped me to see the professions through a regulator’s eyes.
Covid-19 has led to changes in how the Board meets, what has that been like as a new Board member?
We can see innumerable vital changes across the world as a result of Covid. Most of the Board meetings moved to online platforms and this has saved lots of time but on the other hand, interpersonal communications have reduced. Online meetings are more convenient and for a new member like me who is working in a different location, it is a suitable platform for meetings. At the same time it is essential to have direct meetings and I hope we will be in a position to resume these soon.
As someone who has recently been elected to the Board, could you tell our readers a bit about the election process and the steps involved?
I am an elected representative from the general nurses practice and from my experience I found the election process straightforward and clearly explained on the NMBI website. NMBI advertise expressions of interest when vacancies arise and nominations can be submitted by eligible candidates. Candidates have adequate time to campaign and NMBI issue registered nurses and midwives a notification and voting instructions before voting begins. Registrants can cast their votes before the deadline and a candidate will be elected as per the votes received. From my work with overseas nurses and midwives, I received good support and I was delighted to be elected.
As well as being on the Board of NMBI, you are also a member of the Midwives Committee and the Registration Committee. Could you tell us a bit about each Committee and the work that they do?
Midwifery is a separate profession from nursing. A separate branch of study and practice is required to become a qualified midwife.
The role of the Midwives Committee is to provide advice to the Board in relation to all matters pertaining to midwifery practice. As with all of the NMBI committees there are Board members, lay members and midwives on the Midwives Committee. I am on the committee as a Registered General Nurse. All decisions are made after a huge amount of learning, assessment, evaluations and discussions.
The Registration Committee performs certain delegated functions regarding registration and make recommendations to the Board, when required. This committee plays a major role in assisting the Board with decisions relating to registration. The Board considers the Committees recommendations to ensure NMBI is effective and can operate in the best interests of the public and the nursing and midwifery professions. As a new member I have found the whole management team very supportive in their guidance and in providing information. I really enjoy working as part of the Registration Committee especially as I have already gone through the recognition and registration process, and I always try to contribute my best to the committee.
Why do you think it is importance for registrants to be part of the Board and Committees?
Major decisions regarding nursing and midwifery practice in Ireland are made by NMBI. Being part of the Board and Committees offers me a great opportunity to contribute to such decisions and registrants can also contribute to the professions, if they are a member. It is also a good career development platform since you are working with a professional regulator. I have found that working with a professional regulator is totally different than what I had expected. Board and Committee members have enormous opportunities to empower the professions as well as our career.
Your term of office ends in 2025. What would you like to achieve over the next three years?
The coming years are vital as we are facing innumerable changes across world due to Covid-19 and its after-effects. I would like to be a major contributor to the professions and apart from that, I hope that my experience with NMBI will significantly enhance my career development.
For anyone who may be interested in joining the NMBI Board or one of the NMBI Committees, what advice would you give them?
It is a great privilege to be a part of a professional regulator like NMBI. It does require a high level of commitment and time but there is a great team who offer excellent support. There is a large amount of reading and preparation required before each meeting as decisions are made and each Committee will have different requirements to fulfil. Overall, it is a great platform to enhance your expertise and develop your knowledge and skills and I would encourage anyone to join.