The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in collaboration with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Guyana (UG) yesterday launched its Emergency Nursing Degree Programme, which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean.
The collaboration between GPHC and the Vanderbilt Medical Center marks a 10-year partnership between the entities, the fruits of which have been leadership workshops, clinical care lectures, triage classes and the development of the Clinical Staff Leader Programme, according to Dr Jessica Van Meter, who is not only attached to the university, but will serve as Director of the Nursing Programme.
“Nurses do constitute the backbone of human resources for the health service delivery system in any country… The launch of this programme will have a far reaching impact on the strengthening of our healthcare system and also in another level of specialization in the nursing fraternity,” Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton stated yesterday.
The on-scene, two-year, residency programme will begin in a week’s time at GPHC’s Accident and Emergency department, with its first batch of students, which consists of 20 nurses drawn from hospitals in Georgetown, Suddie, West Demerara, Linden and New Amsterdam. Those twenty nurses were selected from a total of 57 applicants. A prerequisite for their acceptance to the programme was being a registered nurse for at least a year.
Dr Zulfikar Bux, who was lauded for being the pioneer of this initiative, spoke of the many hurdles that were encountered during the three years it took to make the programme a reality.
He explained that there is a need for nurses to become specialized in the field of emergency nursing because there is a gap that exists between doctors who offer efficient and effective emergency care, and nurses who do not yet meet that standard. To be a professional and rounded staff and to work in clinical settings, he said, is acquired not only through a medical degree and with only academic exposure.
The doctor noted that his own medical training was supplemented by residency training with the Vanderbilt Medical Center and he related that the experience greatly added to his expertise as a healthcare professional.
“…When I was in residency, I was very rough around the edges. You thought you knew everything, you thought you were doing your best and then you get into residency and you work with people from Vanderbilt and you realize there’s so much more to medicine that you don’t know. And I always say—what you don’t know, you don’t know, and you’re gonna practice within the scope of what you know,” he said.
“This is not just about getting a degree. Yes, it has to do with you fine tuning your skills and becoming better professionals, so you can deliver better care to the patients, but we believe in you as pioneers of emergency nursing. And this is very important—somebody has to take it forward and it can’t be Dr Bux or it can’t be a physician—it has to be nurses and it has to be emergency nurses,” he added.
According to Bux, the vision is to see, at the end of five years, a “cadre of trained emergency professionals who will take care to the public and help to save lives.” The first steps have already begun, with this most recent initiative of the emergency nursing programme as well as work that has been done in physician training and emergency medical service.
Dr Van Meter, with reference to the GPHC, acknowledged the difficulties that exist in patient care and highlighted how the programme aims to contribute to the development of nurses that are equipped to deal with such issues.
“…The GPHC sees some of the most complex and critically ill patients that far exceed any of those seen in an academic medical center. In conjunction with the development of emergency medical services and our physician colleagues, this programme is designed to foster passionate, dedicated, critical care educated nurses that are able to contribute to the care of these complex patients,” she noted.
Chairman of GPHC’s Board Dr Max Hanoman highlighted the need for the specialization of nurses in other key areas and voiced the hope that once specialized, government will ensure that nurses are adequately compensated for their expertise. His call was supported by Dr Norton, who echoed his sentiment during his address to the audience.