U. educates to keep nurses in Haiti


As the number of nurses in Haiti decline and the lack of nursing programs in the country persists, the Rutgers College of Nursing established a program abroad to lend a helping hand.

Elise Lev, associate professor at the College of Nursing, said she thought of the idea to bring a nursing program to Haiti after learning many nurses there came to the United States for further education and did not return home.

"The United States has 940 nurses per 100,000 population. [In] Haiti, there are only 10.7 nurses per 100,000," Lev said. "What that means is that there isn't the health teaching [or] the counseling [for patients]."

While partnering with Faculty of Nursing Science in Leogane (FSIL) of the Episcopal University, Lev set out to establish a hybrid online, on-site program designed to help nursing students at FSIL achieve a certificate in nursing education.

Lev and Gayle Pearson, assistant dean of the Center for Professional Development, teach five students in the program, alongside other educators.

Lev said she teaches some of the classes in Haiti. But when she is not there, the students get their lessons from PowerPoint slides that have her voice recorded on them.

Joy McDonald, manager of information technology in the Rutgers-Newark Office of Academic Technology, went to Haiti and helped set up a Blackboard site, a learning management system like Sakai. She said the students had no trouble adjusting to the technology.

"I think it's amazing how much technology is pervasive and is used by the citizens in Haiti despite some of the economic issues that they have to deal with," McDonald said.

The initial proposal for the program did not happen because of financial issues, she said. But with the help of the School of Nursing's Dean William Holzemer, Lev and Teri Lindgren, speciality director of the community health program, were later funded to go to Haiti and see if such a program would be possible to offer.

"[We] interviewed the students who would presumably be in the program - though they do in fact have a lot of capacity to use technology and they're very comfortable using computers," Lev said.

The Haiti Nursing Foundation provided grant money for a year so the College of Nursing could develop a professional program to help teach both the students and faculty within the Faculty of Nursing Science, Lev said.

The first year of the program is in the beginning stages and aims to give students a certificate in nursing education, which will come from the College of Nursing's Center for Professional Development.

Rather than the program focusing on the United States' health priorities, the students in Haiti will learn more about the health issues that concern their country, Lev said.

"The hospitals and the health care in Haiti is so very different and the needs of Haiti is so very different and what we're focusing on and what this community health will focus is the needs of Haiti," she said.

She said nurses could make a difference by educating the people of Haiti in terms of what they need to do to take better health precautions.

"The Haitian nurses can change their lives by modifying conditions such as infectious diseases [and] telling them how to prevent them," Lev said. She said educating in Haiti allows the program to concentrate on the disparities that currently result from health inequalities.

John Estrell, a College of Nursing sophomore, said the program is a good way to reach out to Haiti, but the program would be better if it provided more in-person interactions with the students in Haiti.

"I completely believe in hands-on education but I also think the Internet and doing [it] online is a start," he said. "Because you can't get all these professors to move to Haiti."

 

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, Elise Lev, an associate professor at the College of Nursing, was misquoted as having stated that Episcopal College was the only school in Haiti with a program comparable to the College of Nursing. Also, the format of the program was incorrect. It is a hybrid course, where students work both online and in-person toward a certificate in nursing education. The group issuing the program certificate was also incorrect — it is the College of Nursing's Center for Professional Development. Finally, the article mistated the trips to Haiti Lev took. She went twice: once with Teri Lindgren, specialty director of the community health program; and again with Joy McDonald, manager of information technology in the Rutgers-Newark Office of Academic Technology, and Gale Pearson, assistant dean of the Center for Professional Development.

 


By Yashmin Patel

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