McMaster University

McMaster University

Pakistan

Aga Khan University

Project Co-Directors: 

  • A. Baumann, S.E. French (McMaster Site)
  • Y. Amarsi (AKUSON Site)

Funding Source: 

  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

The School of Nursing began its affiliation with the Aga Khan University (AKU) in 1979, resulting in a 23 year affiliation. Each new initiative with the AKU has been built on a long-standing history of successful partnership and collaboration.

Two earlier projects (1983-1987 and 1987-1992), funded primarily by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), focused primarily on the development of nursing programs at the AKU, the curriculum, and its faculty. McMaster’s problem-based, self-directed educational approach was adopted by the AKU; this was a radical departure from the traditional “rote” learning approach used in Pakistan.

A 12 month work-study program designed specifically for nurses and lady health visitors (LHVs) was also provided. This included six months of intensive study at McMaster followed by six months of practice in Pakistan, supervised by McMaster faculty based in Pakistan. The LHVs participating in the work-study program were from the Aga Khan Health Services, Pakistan (AKHSP), an NGO which provides primary health care services throughout Pakistan, predominantly in rural areas. A select number of nurses from the AKU and the AKUH, and later from the governmental sector, were admitted to the post-diploma program at McMaster.

In 1988, the AKU launched the first university-based nursing program in Pakistan. McMaster faculty contributed to the development of that post-diploma program and provided consultation to other nursing institutions. Many of the nurses educated at McMaster became faculty members in the new program.

Nursing in Pakistan has traditionally had a low status and, for a variety of reasons, many families were reluctant to have their daughters enter the profession. Inadequate numbers of young women with secondary education contributed to the situation. Nursing at the AKU and AKUH has been instrumental in enhancing the image of nursing as a respectable and valued occupation for young women in the country.

In order to bring about the desired changes in attitudes towards the profession and health policy reforms, it was determined that a long-term approach to capacity building, focusing on nursing human development was needed in Pakistan.

Beginning in 1994, CIDA funded the Development of Women Health Professionals (DWHP) Program: Nurses and Lady Health Visitors with a budget of $16.6 million. The DWHP Program was the largest social sector project funded by CIDA in the Canadian university system. It was a bilateral project between the Governments of Canada and Pakistan and was managed in partnership by McMaster University School of Nursing and the Aga Khan University School of Nursing (AKUSON).

The primary goals were to strengthen the role of women, specifically nurses and lady health visitors in the health sector and to assist the federal and the four provincial governments to develop their system of nursing. A Partnership Board and the Program Steering Committee provided the strategic direction for the Program, while the Program offices in Pakistan provided operational management.

At the peak of the DWHP Program, nine full-time Canadian faculty from McMaster were based in Pakistan, with ten full-time Pakistani faculty and 22 Pakistani staff. Fifty-five BScN fellowships were provided to nurses from the governments to study at the AKU and 69 fellowships were provided for lady health visitors from the Public Health Schools and the AKHSP to participate in the educational program in primary health care provided at the DWHP site in Pakistan. Eight senior LHVs from the AKHSP participated in a 12-month work-study program focusing on leadership and management.

In addition, CIDA provided funding for learning resources; travel for students, faculty, consultants, and government personnel attending meetings; consultants from Pakistan to develop computerized information systems, and consultants from Canada for the development of national examination systems.

The Program finished in August 2002. Dr. Yasmin Amarsi, the current Dean of AKU’s School of Nursing, was appointed in 2002. She received both her BScN and PhD degrees from McMaster’s School of Nursing and was the first nurse in Pakistan to receive a doctorate degree.

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