Nursing

Nursing student immersed in learning even as she teaches others

January 26, 2015 by Cindy O'Dell
Rebecca White

Rebecca White

They need you in Africa.

That’s just about all it took to send Rebecca White halfway around the world – a journey that starts at her home base in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, extends to the University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing, continues to Rwanda and last week brought her to Brandman University’s Irvine campus.

White is one of the new students in the post-masters to doctorate in nursing program. Her emphasis is mental health, which brings us back to Rwanda.

White went there to work with the Human Resources for Health program, a consortium of about 100 U.S. faculty members from 25 university medical programs that pairs them with their counterparts in Rwanda. There they want to establish a new medical residency, nursing specialties, health management and oral health programs within the Rwandan education system.

That “twinning” model, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, builds curriculum development, clinical teaching, better delivery of services and research while developing the careers and skills of Rwandan doctors and educators who will assume all teaching and care delivery after seven years.

The program aims to train 500 physicians and 5,000 nurses.

Because of White’s background in nursing education and mental health (she’s on the faculty of the University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing), she was among the first they turned to help develop a bachelor of science in mental health nursing program. While attending an American Psychiatric Nurse’s Association, she met someone from Brandman’s Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professions who encouraged her to pursue a doctorate.

“He told me how supportive they (Brandman) were of distance learning. I’m hoping once I get my doctorate, I’ll be able to go back and help them facilitate a doctorate program (for nurses) in Rwanda,” she said, during a quick interview on the final day of her immersion session in Irvine and before returning to Rwanda.

White said she loves the work she’s doing in Africa, which includes building infrastructure at six universities and working with the Ministry of Mental Health to devise a strategic plan. “I help everybody work together, as every nurse does,” she said.

“I do feel strongly about academics and higher education being a big piece of nursing,” she said, explaining further why she’s pursuing a doctorate. “I really want to augment my time there and see what I can bring to the table.”

As for Brandman University, her first round of immersion has her thrilled with her choice. “It’s the little things that are the big things to me, and I think Brandman has got it,” she said, adding that her enrollment coach, Deann Avila, has provided her with consistent, positive support and making it possible to participate no matter which country she’s in.

Her enthusiasm for both programs rubs off on everyone she meets and there’s already talk of creating a bridge program between Brandman and Rwanda.

She’s equally impressed with the students she meets in the nursing program in Africa. “Students walk three hours to class without having eaten. But they go to school,” she said, often in the hopes of earning enough so that their siblings can also go to school.

About Rwanda

  • Population: 11 million
  • Number of physicians as of 2011: 625
  • Number of nurses: 8,273
  • Number of midwives: 240
  • Number of hospitals: Four referral hospitals, 41 district hospitals and 442 health centers
  • Current health-service-provider density: 0.84 health providers per 1,000 people
  • World Health Organization recommended minimum: 2.3 providers per 1,000 people

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