Zambian Innovation

The School of Nursing is working on several intriguing projects in Zambia, notes assistant dean for international affairs Lynda Wilson, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N. Wilson first partnered with Eleanor Msidi, registrar of Zambia’s General Nursing Council, and with other Zambian and international partners to develop a distance-based program to teach nurses how to prescribe HIV drugs. The one-year diploma program was launched in June 2009, with 31 nurses from all nine of Zambia’s provinces. “They had two and a half weeks of classes in Lusaka [Zambia’s capital], learning about all aspects of HIV care; then they did their next three and a half weeks in intensive clinical mentoring,” Wilson says. “Now they’ve gone back to their home provinces, where over the next 10 months, they’ll be mentored 40 hours a month and examine some case studies.”

This, too, is a long-term project, says Wilson. “Eventually we’ll need more funding to make this a distance-accessible program,” she points out. “Not Internet-based, because Internet access is not reliable there, but we want to put a lot of this material on CD, and my dream has been to involve our nurse-practitioner faculty who know how to deliver distance education. We have identified several faculty members who have expressed willingness to go to Zambia and work with the Zambian team, because they know that when you teach in a distance format, you have to teach differently to get the students to engage with the material. And that’s going to be a big paradigm shift in Zambia, where they’re accustomed to sitting in a classroom and just writing down what the teacher says.”

Wilson has identified another possible solution to the challenge of long-distance teaching in eGranary, an idea originated at the University of Iowa. The eGranary concept involves copying as much information as possible from the Internet, getting copyright permission where necessary, and downloading it onto servers that can be purchased for as little as $700. In this way, the information can be accessed even on older computers, and without the problems associated with Internet access and bandwidth. The Ministry of Health has expressed interest in setting up similar installations in each of Zambia’s provinces, which could grow into regional education centers for nurses’ HIV training.

UAB’s Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia has received a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation to send two nurses to Zambia twice a year for three weeks at a time to help build assessment and treatment skills among the country’s nurses. The SON’s Karen Saenz, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., who has particular expertise in community and pediatric health, has been chosen as one of the nurses and will help identify and mentor a group of 12 potential nurse leaders.
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