ELIZABETH, NJ - Two faculty members and 12 student nurses from the University of Notre Dame in Jacmel, Haiti, received a warm welcome from faculty and students at the Trinitas School of Nursing during an intensive two-week stay in July.
The Trinitas School of Nursing, the College of Saint Elizabeth and the Sisters of Charity of St Elizabeth hosted the group and facilitated the program which included classes and simulated practice based on the needs of nurses in the Caribbean island nation. During their stay, the students received an immersion in nursing practices found in the United States, including practicing skills with simulated patients. Most of the sessions were conducted in both Creole and English, thanks to bilingual faculty members and student “buddies” from the School of Nursing.
Co-directors of the project, Mary E. Kelley, dean of the Trinitas School of Nursing in Elizabeth, and Dr. Eileen Specchio, professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth (CSE) in Convent Station, described preparations for the visit. “We took great care in developing the curriculum based on the needs and requests of the students. Many Creole-speaking faculty members of Trinitas, graduate students from CSE, and staff members, clinical specialists, and administrators from the Medical Center as well as our own nursing students volunteered their time to teach, translate, and be ‘buddies’ during the program. Since the students were anxious to learn as much as they could in a limited amount of time, it was important for us to recognize the language differences in order to make their learning experiences meaningful and effective.”
The most eye-opening experience for the student nurses was the opportunity to participate in patient care with high fidelity simulated patients at the School of Nursing’s location in Elizabeth. As faculty members controlled the patients via computer, the student nurses were required to respond to any and all patient needs that ranged from simple to complex care issues and sudden changes in patient conditions. “The immediate faculty feedback helped them modify their bedside response to these simulated patients and added to their ability to be ready for actual patients once they return to Haiti,” notes Dr. Specchio.
The program also included a tour of the Trinitas Regional Medical Center Emergency Department, the Intensive Care Unit, Labor and Delivery, Maternal/Child Care, and the 4 North Oncology unit at the main campus on Williamson Street in Elizabeth. Maryse “Moe” Annulysse, RN, Intensive Care Unit, who hails from Haiti, escorted some of the nurses on the tour and reported that they were “eager and excited to see the facility and observe the staff in action.” Dr. Specchio added, “The students also explained that nurses in Haiti do not work in teams, so the tour demonstrated to them that team work makes a world of difference in patient care.”
Gary S. Horan, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Trinitas, expressed his support of their commitment to the nursing profession and encouraged them in their desire to help improve the patient experience in Haiti. Mary McTigue, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, also commended the students nurses for their willingness to come to the United States to see first-hand the delivery of patient care. “We know that when you return home you’ll remember this experience and try to put into action some of what you saw here. We’re proud that we at Trinitas could give you this chance,” Mary summed up.
The program also allowed the students to interact with fellow-Haitians at a Health Fair organized by a Haitian church in East Orange. They also spent an afternoon on a lunch cruise around Manhattan, enjoyed a reception in their honor hosted by St Patrick’s Church in Jersey City, and were guests of honor at a barbeque in their honor hosted by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth on the College of St Elizabeth campus.
Students and faculty from both Haiti and the United States agreed the program was a huge success, said Dean Kelley. “The students exchanged email addresses and plan to keep in touch with one another.”
Student nurses like this one from Haiti responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to treat patients in the simulation lab at the Trinitas School of Nursing in Elizabeth. This aspect of the two-week program earned high grades from the University of Notre Dame students and their faculty members.