Stories From the Field:


National Nursing Conference in Uganda

Julie Anathan, Center for Global Health

For over 10 years, the Massachusetts General Hospital has partnered with the Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Uganda to train and retain critical human resources for health. Recently the partnership has expanded to include nursing leadership, education, and research. Uganda, like many other low-resource settings, faces a critical shortage of qualified nurses to care for patients and a staggering deficit of nursing faculty to instruct the next generation of providers. These shortages are often the result of migration to pursue advanced degrees or specialization, better paying opportunities abroad, and lack of leadership, support, and professional development.

In overcoming these challenges, nurse leaders are in a position to help reverse migration by strengthening the local academic environment to assure graduates can think critically, provide quality care, are empowered to advocate on behalf of their patients and profession, and can grow professionally through opportunities for advanced degrees and professional development.

The MUST Department of Nursing completed a comprehensive needs assessment of all nursing activities as well as a strategic plan and 5-year roadmap for the Department. While resurrecting of the Master of Nursing program, the MUST nursing faculty have also prioritized clinical specialty and leadership development as key areas of focus within the Masters program.

In an effort to consolidate support within the Uganda nursing community, MUST recently sponsored a National Nursing Conference to bring nurse leaders from across Uganda together to identify key challenges and opportunities to improve the status of nursing and nursing education in Uganda. Entitled “Paving the Way for a New Era in Nursing,” more than 100 nurse leaders from across Uganda came together in early June 2014 to deliberate on current trends and opportunities in nursing research and education in Uganda. As one faculty member commented, “It was the first time we had ever had a nursing conference at MUST, and we showed the administration that we could do it successfully.” 

As momentum builds towards national goals in nursing, MUST continues to see success at home. The Master of Nursing curriculum has been approved by the leadership of MUST and will welcome the first six students in the fall of 2014. In response to the need for nursing faculty to help teach in the Masters level program, Seed Global Health and the Global Health Service Partnership with the U.S. Peace Corps, will second three nursing faculty volunteers to teach at MUST during the 2014-2015 academic year.

The nursing partnership between MUST and Mass General continues to grow. Founded on the relationships that have been built over the past decade, the strategic plan outlines the way forward through faculty enhancement, building the clinical skills lab, professional development opportunities, and leadership development. As one faculty stated: “Our new collaboration with Mass General brings confidence to the Department of Nursing. We are learning how to be more assertive and to push for the essential things we need for development.”