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Hopkins Nursing Center Offers E-Support to Nurses, Midwives in Haiti

Posted: 2/1/2010

In the aftermath of Haiti's devastating earthquake, the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center has been actively assisting Haitian nurses and midwives from afar, gathering nursing education materials and making them available electronically.

As co-director of the Collaborating Center, Associate Professor Patricia Abbott, PhD, RN, manages the Global Alliance for Nursing and Midwifery (GANM), an electronic community of practice specifically designed to deliver information for nurses and midwives in low-resource settings. After the earthquake, the Center began an effort to collect nursing education materials, translate them into French and Creole and make them available to the nurses and midwives in Haiti electronically.

"We are getting educational material contributions for Haiti from some of the most desperately needy places in the world," Abbott said. "I find myself speechless at the selfless contributions from the global nursing community."  So far, materials have come from nations across the globe, including Japan, Afghanistan, Brazil, Pakistan, Nepal, and Somalia.

While some of the information can be used for emergency aid -- documents on infection control and working with open wounds in the absence of medical supplies, for example -- Abbott said much of it is designed as a resource for medical training in Haiti in the months and years ahead.

The January 12 earthquake exacted a heavy toll on Haiti's nursing community. The Ecole Nationale des Infirmieres (National School of Nursing) in Port-au-Prince -- one of three official nursing schools in the country -- was destroyed. One hundred and fifty second-year nursing students and two professors were killed when the building collapsed, and most of the school's teaching materials and computers were lost, according to Agnes Jacobs, an international midwife adviser working for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Haiti. The neighboring midwifery school was seriously damaged, Jacobs said.

Abbott said she isn't sure how many GANM members currently are in Haiti, though she has been in regular contact with four. One nurse midwife wrote to her recently from Carrfour, a largely residential community near Port-au-Prince.

"I haven't delivered any babies yet though we know of several that were born just in their tent cities in the street since I've been here," she wrote. "I have been seeing pregnant women and women with [gynecological] concerns at the local chaotic hospital as well. I do not currently have any obstetric medications, though I do have a few basic birth kits. The local hospital has no supplies, all were lost in the quake. Thank you for your help!"

The GANM supports the professional development of nurses and midwives through collaborative networking and education. Its membership consists of 2,020 nurses and midwives in 142 countries.