Nursing in Guyana – Making a Difference

The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) offers an international learning and service experience in Guyana, South America. In this program, USJ’s faculty members Janet Knecht, Ph.D., M.S.N., director of Traditional Undergraduate and Accelerated Nursing Programs; Yvonne Joy, DNP, M.S.N., APRN-BC, assistant professor of Nursing; and Mary Lou Graham, M.S.N., APRN-BC, lecturer in Nursing, are focused on sharing their knowledge on critical care with the nurses of Guyana.

In June 2016, USJ was awarded an international grant from the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities. In one year, this grant has allowed USJ to expand its Guyana Immersion Project (GIP) – a yearly trip to learn about international nursing and health care with Guyanese nurses and students – and address Guyana’s distressing health care issues: suicide and inadequate palliative, or end of life, care. In addition to providing general information on mental health to the public, students and nurses at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Georgetown, Guyana received suicide risk assessment education. “There’s no mental health component in nursing education in Guyana,” said Professor Mary Lou Graham.

In addition, USJ is proudly working with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), to facilitate a critical care course in Guyana and develop curricula to improve mental health education for nurses. “I was starting to work with critical care nurses when I was approached by Dr. William Adu-Krow, Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative for the Guyana Country Office, about creating a critical care course for the Guyanese nurses around the country,” said Knecht. After receiving such a humbling offer, Knecht and Graham began to strategize.

PAHO and the Guyanese Ministry of Health and University of Guyana continued working with Knecht and Graham and asked for assistance with Psychiatric Nursing education. With one of the highest suicide rates in the world, it has become necessary to put an emphasis on mental health in Guyana. There is an ongoing collaboration between Graham, Knecht and USJ educated faculty at the University of Guyana to bring psychiatric nursing education at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level to that University.

As faculty consultants, Knecht and Graham spent this past summer creating a critical care course in Guyana. The critical care course was launched on line in September and will continue through May 2018. “We’ve created an online course, and we’re delivering everything the trainers need to deliver content. There are critical care leaders in Guyana, and we are just facilitating them while leading the course,” said Knecht. The goal is to develop the course and then turn the content and strategies over to the Nurse Leaders and the Hospitals they work for in Guyana.

This collaboration is benefiting both the people of Guyana and the USJ community. There has never been a nurse-led critical care course in Guyana. Moving forward, this will enable them to have stronger health care providers. With the passion and ambition of our USJ faculty, they’re truly making a difference in Guyana’s nursing.

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