A Caribbean nursing school upskilled registered nurses to support the region's healthcare demands.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in virus cases exposed a shortage of critical care nurses across the Caribbean. To address the shortage, the ministries of health in the region targeted registered nurses for an accelerated upskilling program that equips them with essential skills and competencies to support newly overwhelmed intensive care units.
The University of the West Indies School of Nursing St. Augustine, the Department of Clinical Medical and Clinical Surgical Sciences of UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences, and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, collaborated to develop the Introduction to Critical Care Nursing program. Additionally, officials from the Pan American Health Organization Trinidad and Tobago Country Office and PAHO Subregional Program reviewed the training curriculum prior to its launch.
With urgency top of mind, the team designed a robust curriculum that participants could complete in only four weeks. It covered such components as the foundations of critical care, COVID-19 patient care, and management of respiratory conditions.
Ministry of health officials identified experienced hospital RNs who often supervise and mentor nursing students as program candidates. PAHO country offices covered the tuition of selected participants who hailed from hospitals in specific countries. The program has had three cohorts, with the first starting in August 2020. In total, 82 nurses, including 50 from Trinidad and Tobago, have completed the program.
From an instructional design standpoint, the program's development may not have been possible without some of today's technology. "One of the achievements of the course was being able to combine online activities with face-to-face training at intensive care units during the time of the pandemic," explains Dr. Benjamín Puertas, PAHO advisor in human resources for health.
Moreover, deployment of this training program has significantly affected the Caribbean health workforce both on micro and macro levels. "Something that nurses mentioned in the course evaluation is that they were able to overcome the initial fear and discomfort of being in an ICU," says Puertas.
The new critical care skills that nurses gained through the program will not only increase their effectiveness in general wards but, according to a recent World Health Organization article, will "contribute to a stronger health care system overall throughout the Caribbean."