Second wave of Haitian nursing students arrive at Regis College

The new class of Haitian nursing students studying at Regis College were welcomed to the Massachusetts State Senate by Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry last week. Photo courtesy Regis

Regis College Haiti Project Advisory Board gathers this week to meet the second wave of Haitian nursing educators doing their summer semester on the College’s Weston campus. The first cohort graduated under Regis College mentorship from the University of Haiti in Port au Prince in February. They were the first Master’s in Science in Nursing professionals educated in a joint project between Haitian hospital schools of nursing, the Haitian ministry of health, and Regis College. Several of the first graduates are back on campus this month helping to mentor the next group.

Last week, they visited Senator Linda Dorcena Forry at the Massachusetts State House. Senator Forry thanked the nursing educators for their work and emphasized “the importance of applying their knowledge to participation in health policy issues.” The Haitian visitors were especially interested in Dorcena Forry’s story about her own political journey.

Carine Jean-Baptiste, from Port au Prince in Haiti, noted that the Regis College Haiti Project is a highly personal and inter-relational learning experience, woman to woman, professional to professional, and “it empowers us to engage partners like the Haitian Ministry of Health and various separate Haitian universities in achieving the same common goal.”

The Regis College Haiti project is a targeted, sustainable, international development project to improve the healthcare system in Haiti through nursing education advancement. February 2014 marked a historic moment for nursing in Haiti as the first cohort of nursing faculty participants graduated with Haiti's first nursing master's degree granted by the State University of Haiti and supported by the Haitian Ministry of Health. The personal touch in this project, however, is the gift that will keep on giving as each cohort helps to educate and mentor the next and, home in Haiti, nursing educators support one another as they educate future Haitian nurses.

As Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health said in a video about the project, improving the education of nursing faculty and building up the nurses themselves in their various locations around the island makes those places sites of better care and helps to change the level and quality of care in Haiti.

As far back as 2007, Regis College President Dr. Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN and her colleagues Dr. Nancy Street, SciD, RN, and Cherlie Normilus, MSN, promised Haitian nursing leaders that they would find a way to help and return to Haiti. The Regis College Haiti Project, which is expected to continue for a decade, represents the fulfillment of that promise.

Financial aid has included Karen Ansara and the Ansara Family Foundation; Donato Tramuto and Health e-Villages, and the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund. Regis College has donated its faculty and staff services, hosting the students and mentoring them, and Regis faculty also travel to Haiti several times a year to conduct intensive seminars there.

“Meeting Ophelia Dahl and Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains upon Mountains, and visiting the outposts of care along Haiti’s rugged roads in 2007 with Maud Duvilaire, then Director of Nursing in the Haitian Ministry of Health, was a life changer,” said Regis president Hays. “I resolved on the road to Cange to help Haitian nursing faculty grow professionally through higher education,” she added.