An underutilized scholarship through the University of Guam Endowment Foundation funded an intensive ten-day training at the University of Guam and Guam Memorial Hospital for four nurses and two nurse educators from Pohnpei. The Pohnpei nurses completed their training on July 13 under the guidance of the UOG School of Nursing and Health Sciences.
“This was an amazing collaboration that will directly improve the quality of the FSM’s existing and upcoming health care workforce as well as the health of their people,” said Dr. Margaret Hattori-Uchima, Dean of UOG’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences. “And when the islands of Micronesia are strong individually, our region is stronger as a whole.”
The Charles H. Parent Scholarship was established by Dr. Charles H. Parent, a former physician at the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services who passed away in 2007. It was intended to provide funding for students from Micronesia to pursue nursing degrees at UOG starting in Fanuchånan 2017, but the UOG Nursing program did not have enough Micronesian nursing students to fully utilize the funds, with just two students from Chuuk graduating in the past year.
Dr. Hattori-Uchima approached the Endowment Foundation Board with a proposal that the scholarship funds be used to fund a 10-day training opportunity at GMH for working nurses and nurse educators in Micronesia, and the board approved it the same day.
“The Foundation reviewed the request and came to the conclusion that this training opportunity was in line with the intent of the donor,” said Melanie Mendiola, Executive Director of the UOG Endowment Foundation. “Dr. Parent was passionate about meeting the needs of the underserved — most especially, individuals from the outer islands.”
Many of the health care workers in the Federated States of Micronesia have inadequate foundational training and are trained on-site by others working in the same position, according to a cancer control plan published by the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs.
Dr. Hattori-Uchima verified the need for training first-hand when she toured the Pohnpei State Hospital and spoke with the nursing staff there in her role as acting director of Guam/Micronesia Area Health Education Center (AHEC). The AHEC is a grant program administered by UOG’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences that is meant to improve health care in underserved communities by increasing the number and skills of health care workers.
The collaboration between UOG’s School of Nursing, the AHEC offices, Guam Memorial Hospital, and the UOG Endowment Foundation ultimately brought four nurses from Pohnpei State Hospital and two nursing educators from the College of Micronesia-FSM to Guam on July 1 for 10 days of intensive training on basic procedures and skills specific to their units.
An AHEC office at the College of Micronesia used its grant funds to pay for the participants’ travel costs.
In order to have the broadest impact on the hospital overall, the UOG School of Nursing chose nurses from four different departments of the Pohnpei hospital — labor and delivery, the emergency room, the surgical ward, and obstetrics and pediatrics. Nursing educators from the College of Micronesia were also selected to participate.
“The intent was that they needed to come to Guam with an idea of an improvement project at their hospital or school,” Dr. Hattori-Uchima said. “They did a great job. They all had really great ideas.”
In particular, the nurses wanted to improve their hospital’s abilities for triage, wound care, and infection control.
Their first day of training was at UOG. UOG School of Nursing faculty Dr. Kathryn Wood, Dr. James Finch, and Veronica Alave taught them health assessment, infection control, and delivering babies with limited resources. They engaged in simulation exercises to prepare them for GMH.
Then GMH Director of Nursing Zennia Pecina assigned the trainees to appropriate units of GMH, where they shadowed the staff and learned how to use certain equipment, like an electrocardiogram.
“Training is really a strength of GMH nurses,” Pecina said. “Most of them are UOG graduates, so they were trained well. This partnership allowed them to pass on their knowledge using the same training techniques.”
Additionally, she said the exchange was beneficial for Guam’s nurses and nurse educators as well. “GMH sees a lot of patients from other islands, and the exchange has been good training in terms of cultural sensitivity with matters of health care,” Pecina said.
During a debriefing meeting at the conclusion of their training, the nurses shared how much they had learned and what they plan to implement back at their hospital.
“I learned more about patient bedside care, infection control, and new technologies they’re using,” said Wesihner John, an obstetrics and pediatrics nurse at Pohnpei State Hospital. “It’s about time for us to make changes in our hospital. What we learned here, we can go back and use to improve patient care and the settings in our workplace.”
The UOG School of Nursing wants to extend this training to other islands in Micronesia and plans to make the request to the Endowment Foundation Board again next year. Yap and the Marshall Islands have also expressed interest in training opportunities for their nurses and associate degree candidates.
“If the needs of our students are in line with the intentions of the donor, I would expect that this gift would continue benefitting our island neighbors in the way that Dr. Parent intended, whether through individual scholarships, group training opportunities, or other related activities,” Mendiola said.