By Stefanie Dell’Aringa
The 2010 Haiti earthquake prompted Pace University Lienhard School of Nursing professor Carol Roye, EdD, RN, CPNP, FAAN, to establish a nonprofit foundation called Promoting Health in Haiti. The organization sends volunteer nurses to the cities Port-au-Prince and Leogane to help Haitians become family nurse practitioners.
Roye, associate dean for faculty scholarship at Pace’s Pleasantville, N.Y., campus and a pediatric nurse practitioner, was moved to rebuild.
“The Port-au-Prince public school of nursing had collapsed, killing faculty and students,” Roye said. “It was horrific, but it became crystal clear to us that it wasn’t just a matter of helping them rebuild their school. The state of education there was nothing more than a diploma program.”
Roye formed a team including Haitian-American Carmelle Bellefleur, PhD, RN, professor emerita, Nassau Community College Nursing Department, to travel to the impoverished country.
“She asked me [if I would] be interested in discussing ways to help Haiti,” said Bellefleur, PHH vice president and program coordinator.
Roye conducted a conference in 2011 at Hunter College, Manhattan. Soon after that meeting, Steven Baumann, PhD, RN, professor at Hunter-Bellevue’s School of Nursing, who serves as secretary, and Joanna Hofman, EdD, RN, treasurer, helped form PHH.
Roye and Bellefleur visit Haiti several times a year and work with local government to recognize the role of nurse practitioner. Roye recruited others to teach in public and private sectors.
“We created a baccalaureate program and family nurse practitioner program because people don’t get primary care,” Roye said.
The FNP program in Leogane is modeled after the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Essentials of Master’s in Nursing program, and the baccalaureate bridge program is a collaborative effort between PHH and Long Island’s Molloy College. A cohort of 17 nurses will graduate in 2015 from the FNP program; another 21 are completing their bachelor’s degrees and will begin the FNP program in December.
Challenges in Haiti
A lack of lab testing facilities and medication forced Roye and colleagues to retrain themselves.
“I understood that I can’t just tell them to go to a pharmacy and pick up a prescription,” Roye said.
Nurses in Haiti palpate the uterus to determine breech presentation in place of an ultrasound and identify anemia through observing skin color. Infants die because they’re not resuscitated, children die from asthma attacks and appendicitis, and mothers from cervical cancer, according to Roye.
“Pap smear screening is going to be dependent on good clinical skills in observation of the cervix,” Roye said. “We’re asking that our students learn how to do prenatal care, emergency delivery and infant resuscitation.”
The thought is that improving healthcare will reduce unnecessary deaths and have a ripple effect.
“If mom is healthy, she can take care of her kids,” Roye said.
Roye felt the urge to help Haitians beginning with the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s, but was raising six children at the time. After the earthquake, her children were older and she was able to respond.
“I said, ‘These are our neighbors and look at the suffering,’” Roye said. “It just bothered me so much and I thought, ‘How can I sit here in my lovely house in my lovely community?”
Roye’s reward comes from changing attitudes toward nursing in Haiti and helping prevent diseases such as diabetes.
“It’s very rewarding to me to see that we’ve actually been able to make a difference and to know that these students are going to go out and provide quality care,” Roye said.
Bellefleur, who was born and raised in Haiti and serves as a spokeswoman for the group, said she is inspired by Roye.
“When I had the encouragement of Carol and the other partners who wanted to help, I had to go and help them,” Bellefleur said.
Stefanie Dell’Aringa is a freelance writer.
Learn more online at PromotingHealthInHaiti.org.