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Health and Medicine

Through nurses’ hands: New center to improve health care worldwide

Carolina Nursing’s new WHO/PAHO designation for nursing and midwifery education will improve care for mothers and babies.

A mother holding her baby.
Joining the network of 45 designated centers enables the school to turn its ground-breaking standards of competency into training programs for the health care professionals who deliver most of the world’s babies — nurses and midwives. (Shutterstock)

Nurses and midwives around the world will deliver babies and care for mothers through safer and higher quality care, thanks to the UNC School of Nursing.

The World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization recently designated the school as a Collaborating Center in Quality and Safety Education in Nursing and Midwifery. Joining the network of 45 designated centers enables the school to turn its groundbreaking standards of competency into training programs for the health care professionals who deliver most of the world’s babies — nurses and midwives.

Marianne Baernholdt

Marianne Baernholdt

“Almost all health care connections pass through the hands of nurses. Our lives often begin and end with the help of nurses’ hands,” said Marianne Baernholdt, associate dean for global initiatives. Baernholdt will direct the center with Nilda Peragallo Montano, the school’s dean and a professor.

Each center performs activities that address a specific area, Baernholdt said. “Our focus is quality and safety education for nursing and midwifery because that was an area that the other centers did not have.” Of the 45 centers, 16 are in the Americas including the United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and the West Indies.

Building on past work and faculty expertise

The center’s work aligns with the school’s distinction as the birthplace of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses International Institute. The nursing community knows the school’s standards for competencies in quality and safety education, developed as QSEN in 2007 under former Dean Linda Cronenwett.

Carolina Nursing is home to world-renowned QSEN and simulation experts. “Their expertise is an integral part of any nursing education and prepares nurses to deliver the highest quality of care to patients. This new center will allow us to share that expertise with nurses throughout the Americas,” Baernholdt said.

Baernholdt said that the school’s QSEN expertise perfectly addresses the need for quality and safety education for nurses and midwives identified by WHO and PAHO. Faculty can begin immediately to work with the competencies, which have already been freely shared. The new training modules for nursing quality improvement and simulation will be available free in English and Spanish on the school’s website, and the school will publish relevant work in publications.

The competencies received national and international attention. From that effort, the QSEN Institute was formed. The institute is housed at Case Western Reserve University. Regional centers are at Carolina, University of Alabama and Jacksonville University.

“With Carolina as the birthplace of QSEN, it makes sense that our center’s focus is quality and safety education in nursing, including modules for the six QSEN competencies,” Baernholdt said.

Nena Peragallo Montano

Nilda (Nena) Peragallo Montano (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The competencies are:

  • patient-centered care,
  • teamwork and collaboration with every team member caring for the patient and his or her family,
  • evidence-based practice using the best evidence available,
  • quality improvement through the necessary skills,
  • safety or the ability to prevent unintended events and
  • informatics or the ability to use health information technology such as electronic health records, devices and telemedicine to provide and improve care.

When the modules are complete, WHO and PAHO will host a launch meeting with the collaborating centers to begin reaching the world’s nursing and midwifery workforce.

Nursing and midwifery

WHO and PAHO combined nursing and midwifery as a focus of Carolina’s center because nurses and midwives form the biggest group of health professionals providing care worldwide. “In most countries, they are two distinct professions, but they overlap in both education and clinical practice,” Baernholdt said.

Nurses and midwives perform similar roles, but there are differences. In some countries, students cannot graduate from nursing school without delivering a certain number of babies, which is midwifery, Baernholdt said. “Midwifery is more specialized — taking care of women and their babies and the delivery of babies.”

Carolina’s center will also:

  • develop a free online Nursing Leadership and Administration training program plan to support the development of nurses,
  • prepare instructors to deliver training and provide support during the implementation and evaluation of the programs,
  • conduct research on quality health care, including research capacity and training in the Caribbean region,
  • evaluate and guide implementation of undergraduate and advanced practice nursing programs in WHO’s Region of the Americas and
  • develop a nursing workforce report about nursing and midwifery capacity in Ecuador, a special WHO directive.

The center’s work will provide resources for nurses and for policymakers such as elected officials and ministries of health. Baernholdt said that the center will generate reports that identify gaps in health care and advise policymakers on how to address the gaps.

The school joins hundreds of institutions facilitating the work of WHO internationally, including the Water Institute at UNC and the maternal and child health department at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“It’s part of our mission to not only educate nurses in North Carolina, but also globally,” Baernholdt said. “This extends our reach even more in terms of the public that we serve. And, for the faculty, joining the PAHO/WHO network opens up a lot of new potential collaborations.”

Read more stories on faculty and staff at TheWell.UNC.edu