Diaspora

Elms College nurse educator program continues in Haiti amid turmoil, expands with $1.1 million grant – MassLive.com

In May 2022, the first two cohorts of nurse educators in the Elms College Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program attended their graduation ceremony in Haiti. With the graduates in the front row are, from left to right, Anne Mistivar, project faculty coordinator and cultural consultan, Hilda Alcindor, co-director from the Episcopalian University School of Nursing in Haiti, Elms president Harry Dumay, Joyce Hampton, Elms associate vice president of strategic initiatives, and Bapthol Joseph, program co-manager from the Episcopalian University School of Nursing in Haiti. The Elms recently received a $1.1 million, two-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help expand the program that was launched in 2019. (ELMS COLLEGE PHOTO)
Elms College president Harry Dumay speaks in terms both honest and hope-filled for his native Haiti.
Honest in his reflections on the instability that challenges Haiti at all levels – its president was assassinated in July 2021 and the country struck a month later by an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude – and the fact the country is currently experiencing one of its worst periods of turmoil and disruption.
It does not have a functioning government. Armed gangs blockaded its main fuel terminal in September, halting transport and causing hospitals, without power to run their generators, to close. Nearly one-in-two Haitians is at risk for starvation, according to the United Nations, and the infectious bacterial disease of cholera that can result in death if not treated has returned to the country.
Hope-filled because the Elms and its partners, despite the country’s challenges and those of the global coronavirus pandemic of the last two-and-a-half years, have been able to continue a program to improve the quality of nursing in Haiti. The nation is heavily dependent on nurses for the delivery of health care.
“It has been a collaboration of people to make sure this program continues,” Dumay said. “I am grateful for everyone here at Elms College, in Haiti and the Kellogg foundation that funds it, and I am incredibly proud of our students who continue to show their dedication to learning despite really challenging conditions.”
Elms College this summer received a $1.1 million, two-year grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to continue its work of improving the health outcomes in Haiti through nurse faculty development. The grant expanded the number of students in the program to 32 and will help strengthen connections with Episcopal University whose school was the first in Haiti to offer a four-year, baccalaureate degree in nursing.
Dumay called it “very difficult to function in Haiti to say the least right now.”
“Hospitals function in limited capacity if they are functioning,” he said. “The education system generally starts in October but they have not resume activities yet. Our graduates, just like everyone else in the country, are functioning very cautiously.”
The graduates to whom Dumay referred are the 47 nurse educators who completed the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program that was established by the Elms in 2019 with a $750,000 grant from the Kellogg foundation and in collaboration with the Episcopal University.
The fact that, “despite everything,” the program continues “very, very gratifying,” Dumay said.
“Symbolically, having the program continue in Haiti says not everything is bleak. We have pockets of hope, places where things continue to function.”
Still, he added, “There is a food insecurity, and we are approaching a health-care catastrophe with some of the health centers not able to function so having nurse educators who are better prepared is important.”
Dumay is a native of the Ouanaminthe area in northeast Haiti. He holds a doctorate in higher administration education from Boston College.
The Elms program is focused on preparing nurse faculty educators to teach nursing students or work with new nurses in hospital settings where they also organize professional development opportunities.
“The whole purpose of the program in which Elms’ nursing faculty teach the nurse educators is to have better-prepared nurses throughout the country,” Dumay said. “We were intentional in that we recruit participants from the 10 provinces of Haiti so the program is not concentrated in one place.”
Its impact, he said, has been “both direct and indirect.”
“We have nurse educators whose level of proficiency to teach nurses has been enhanced,” Dumay said. “They talk about skills, leadership, content, and how what they have learned in their teaching approach to these will support students. Also, since the participants come from throughout Haiti, they share how teaching is approached in different regions. This cross-fertilization has happened in ways that we did not anticipate.”
The latest grant to the Elms is under the designation of “Thriving Children,” as the Kellogg foundation has a particular interest in child health care outcomes, according to Dumay.
Studies show that Haiti, for numerous reasons, has the highest rate of neonatal mortality, that is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births, in the Latin America and Caribbean region.
“The Kellogg Foundation has an emphasis on children and maternal health and a big section in the health assessment course is focused on teaching assessments of this population,” Dumay said. “The students of the educators that we are forming will work in hospitals and clinics throughout Haiti and will have all kinds of conditions presented to them. They are prepared in the nursing schools by their educators for all of these conditions.”
Dumay and other Elms faculty, including Joyce Hampton, associate vice president of strategic initiatives and a dean, were able to attend the combined ceremony for the first two classes of graduates in May. Dumay has met with them virtually since and found their commitment steadfast.
“Their spirit is strong and their determination is present,” he said. “They want us to continue to support them and to help them to continue to network. They are not discouraged or giving up in the face of everything they encounter and are figuring out how to be best educators for their student nurses.”
“They have a resilience and stick-to-it·ive·ness they get out of having lived in difficult conditions for a long time,” Dumay said. “Their attitude is to find a way to do the best that they can.”
Originally, the program was to be held at the Episcopal University’s nursing campus in Leogane, but the pandemic, coupled with the country’s ongoing economic and political challenges, prompted the decision to make the studies online.
“Having flipped from in-person to an online model has made it possible to be able to move forward,” Dumay said. “Our students are showing incredible resilience and determination to continue their studies in the midst of everything that is happening.”
Still, there are challenges. Transportation is difficult and electricity unreliable so the students are “walking distances so they can go to a cybercafé or they can go to their work location to Zoom in when the classes meet synchronically,” he noted.
“It is truly humbling to see their perseverance and ingenuity and, with this collective spirit, we are able to continue to provide this much-needed education,” Dumay said.
His observations support what many experts on Haiti, a country with a troubled history of outside intervention, have advocated – support that empowers and involves those at the local level to advance their country in ways they know will benefit.
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