For GHSP Nurse Educators Genevieve Evenhouse and Janet Gross, it would be months before they would actually begin teaching nursing students at Muni University in the West Nile region of Uganda. When they first arrived in July of last year, the nursing program at the school had unexpectedly lost its accreditation from the Ugandan National Council of Higher Education.
Motivated to restart the program and get students into the classroom, Evenhouse and Gross worked closely with Amos Drasiku, the Head of the Nursing Department at Muni. Drasiku has significant experience working in the Uganda health system as both a nurse educator and a clinician in private and public hospitals.
“Amos truly embraces the concept of teamwork,” says Gross. Together, they worked to meet the conditions for program accreditation. “We needed all the necessary requirements to run the program and this involved setting up the demonstration labs, setting up the lecture facilities, setting up the library and resources, and then also identifying the human resource needs to run the program,” Drasiku explained.
The construction of the building also proved to be a significant challenge after delays stalled the development of the demonstration labs and the classrooms.
Prior to receiving approval, the team felt that it was important to involve the local community and health care providers in the development of the program. Student enrolled in the program will spend significant time learning in the local hospital, precepted by hospital staff and receiving clinical instruction from Muni faculty.
“With our activities, it became imperative that we start relationship-building with community partners and partners of Muni University” said Evenhouse. They conducted a series of surveys with nurses at the local hospital to better understand what their educational needs were and what professional development opportunities they were looking for. Based on the surveys, the team provided a one-day workshop on the nursing process to the nurses from the local hospital, two other health centers, and another district-level hospital. As Gross explained, “We’re trying to establish relationships that show that you can trust Muni, they’re going to give you the products and the services you need, and we are group of people who care about you. We’re hoping that they’ll see that and help us educate the Muni students.”
After construction was completed, curriculum was finalized, and labs and classrooms were prepared, the National Council of Higher Education visited the University. The program received full approval in April. It is now the first in the West Nile region of Uganda to offer a Bachelors in Nursing degree.
The program will begin its first semester in August with seven courses focused on the core nursing subjects and basic sciences. And now they are currently recruiting students for classes that will begin in August. “We are targeting about 40 students,” stated Drasiku.
To recruit, they are again engaging with the local community. As Evenhouse explained, “I taught a course on sexuality and life skills in a local high school partially with the idea that this local high school is a catchment for potential Muni University students. Now they know that the university is open and you can become a nurse if you want to.”
For an area as remote and rural as the West Nile region, the establishment of the nursing program is an exciting event for the local community. “The program at Muni University is a much awaited event here in West Nile,” said Evenhouse. Since enrollment has opened, they have received 35 applications including a few from the nurses at the local hospitals and health centers hoping to earn their Bachelors.
The team has high hopes for the program. For Evenhouse and Gross, they hope that the program will encourage secondary school (high school) students to improve their academic performance and more students will attend university. As Gross explained, “Having a public university here is going to increase the potential for people getting a university education.”
For Drasiku, he hopes that the program will have an even larger impact, “I really want this program to be the best in Uganda, as indicated by the graduates who are very knowledgeable, who are skilled, and ethical.”