Educating the educators: Regis College provides advanced education for nurses in Haiti
Program back on track following January earthquake
Years before the world turned its attention to Haiti following the devastating earthquake last January, faculty from Regis College had a goal to make a significant difference in healthcare efforts in the Caribbean country.
Dr. Toni Hays, dean of the school of nursing at Regis College, along with a team of colleagues, the Partners in Health organization, the Ministry of Health in Haiti and the leadership of nursing initiated an international nursing faculty partnership designed to educate the nursing educators in Haiti.
"If we don't educate faculty, we will not upgrade the nurses," Dr. Hays said. "We can not improve the healthcare in the country if you can't improve the education of the nurses."
The program, which started with meetings in 2007, hit an unforeseeable snag when the earthquake hit earlier this year. But last June the team paid a visit to reaffirm their commitment to the program, much to the delight of those involved.
"There was absolutely no question they were so happy to see us," Dr. Hays said.
With a collaborative effort and sufficient funding, Dr. Hays and her team are hoping to start the two-and-a-half-year educational program this June with 15 selected Haitian nursing faculty. The goal is to have the nurses bring their knowledge back to the state universities of Haiti to teach future nurses in bachelor's and master's degree programs.
"Our effort is truly to implement something that is sustainable and institutionalized in that country and then Haiti will take that over," Dr. Hays said. "We will stay with it as long as it's needed to facilitate moving the master's program forward. We want it to become theirs. It is not a Regis master's degree program."
The roots of the project extend back to May of 2006 when Partners in Health executive director Ophelia Dahl was given an honorary degree at Regis College. Dr. Hays had the opportunity to meet with Dahl and Partners in Health Founder Paul Farmer, who established the non-profit organization in 1987 to provide healthcare to the residents of Haiti and other third-world countries.
"They had not done a lot in the area in nursing. At that point, the focus had been to build hospitals and reach out into community of Haitians who had no healthcare. There was a big effort on his part to deal with rampant spread of Tuberculosis and HIV," Dr. Hays said. "Because we have a robust and well-respected nursing program, we were asked to partner with them to see what we could do with some of the needs in Haiti."
In November of 2007, Hays and her colleagues got a first-hand look and the state of nursing in Haiti when they spent a week traveling across the country.
"We went down with a team from Regis and were hosted by Partners in Health in Haiti. They were able to connect us with the Ministry of Health and leadership of nursing in Haiti, and just get to know the Haitian people," Dr. Hays said. "I came away absolutely in love with them myself. They are the inspiration for this project."
The Regis team discovered that Haitian nurses had the equivalent of associate's degrees and had a desire to upgrade their own education.
"They wanted higher education and the opportunity for that, and it doesn't exist in that country," Dr. Hays said.
Dr. Hays and her colleagues began to lay the foundation for the project, meeting with Haitian leadership at Regis College and in Miami over the next two years. Six Haitian nurses traveled to Regis to take summer courses and work in Boston hospitals.
"And then the earthquake happened and it was devastating. I was beside myself for a week before I could get in contact with all our friends in Haiti," Dr. Hays said.
But after the meeting in June, the project is back on track.
The first stop for the nursing faculty will be a six-week summer program on the Regis College campus and in Boston-area hospitals. On three separate occasions during the regular semester Regis doctoral students will voluntarily travel to Haiti for one-week intensive class sessions with the students. The program will continue with online classes in Haiti.
The students will eventually become the teachers of higher education in nursing in Haiti.
"We believe this is a model that could be replicated in other countries as well," Dr. Hays said. "The whole notion is to educate the educator, to create a model that is sustainable and they can take over and it becomes their own."