McMaster University

McMaster University

Haitian nurses learn from McMaster's "well of knowledge"

By Amanda Boundris
Published: June 29, 2011
Nurses from Haiti
The Haitian nurses who visited Hamilton June 20 – 27, from left to right: Mirielle Sylvain, educator, National School of Nursing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Raymonde Aime, director of nursing, Hopital Universitaire de La Paix (HUP); Mirlande Julmice-Jackson, manager, women's health, HUP; Bertoline Beaulieu, senior nurse for Public Health, Ministry of Public and Population Health (MSPP); Florence Walme Nau, assistant director of nursing, HUP; and Lucile Charles, president, Haitian Nurses Association (ANILH).

A group of senior nursing officials from Haiti travelled to Hamilton June 20 to spend a week tapping into McMaster's "well of knowledge of health needs and quality health services.'

A grant in October from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada allowed the McMaster School of Nursing (SON), in partnership with University Hospital School of Nursing in Haiti, the Haitian Nurses' Association (ANILH) and the Hopital Universitaire de La Paix (HUP) in Port-au-Prince, to support joint Canada-Haiti academic projects to build capacity of academic institutions, provide opportunities for Haitians to resume studying and enhance their skill sets.

To that end, the SON hosted six nurses representing the aforementioned organizations and Haiti's Ministry of Public and Population Health (MSPP), to learn more about their challenges, how McMaster can help meet their needs, to provide an overview of nursing in Canada, and to discuss U.S. rebuilding initiatives in Haiti. This included a two-day workshop organized by Anita Fisher, an associate professor with the SON, to form partnerships to enhance nursing education and practice in Haiti – a country the SON has been involved with for nearly 20 years. As part of the workshop, representatives from Partners in Health of Boston, Mass. and Hunter College, City University of New York, presented on the role of NGOs in international partnerships and highlighted the North American Nursing Collaborative.

Mirielle Sylvain, an educator with Haiti's National School of Nursing, praised McMaster's "well of knowledge,' adding, "They are working already in Haiti, so they are very sensitive to the challenges that we are facing as professionals. We are working on restructuring the nursing profession and working together first in collaboration with our partners and authorities because we need to improve the quality of health services and the competency of nurses in Haiti.'

There are two nurses for every 10,000 people in Haiti and the average life expectancy there is 56 years. The many issues facing nurses include: poor working conditions, like not having enough water or soap for proper handwashing; motivated nurses lacking the equipment and resources to do their job; challenges related to the delivery of patient care and no protocol; other care providers not working collaboratively with nurses; lack of clinical supervisors for students; lack of coordination for training nurses; lack of respect for nursing as a profession; nurse managers having no power; the need for a college of nursing to promote continuing education; and nurse retention.

The average nurse works at two or three hospitals, making $200 to $300 a month. "A nurse with 25 years experience makes the same salary as someone just out of school,' said Florence Walme Nau, assistant director of nursing at HUP, noting many nurses leave for jobs in the private sector, NGOs, or other countries.

Fisher, who visited Haiti last fall, believes McMaster can assist with ongoing efforts to develop the curriculum for a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BScN) degree. "I think McMaster can play a huge role in basic education and also a role in graduate education, preparing these nurses to be clinical teachers. Our Leadership and Management program could also play a role, as they have a need for their nurse managers to develop leadership,' she said.

Fisher noted it was important the Haitian nurses visit McMaster to describe their challenges and needs, explaining, "The project that comes out of this, we want it to be Haitian led and partnership driven.'

Lucile Charles, president of ANILH, remarked: "We're trying to develop a partnership with McMaster, so we can have nurses who are equipped to teach new nurses.'

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