The Jamaican ministry of Health is striving to provide better renal care to people by training nurses for the purpose.
Acting chief nursing Officer at the Ministry of Health, Dr Leila McWhinney-Dehaney, says it comes at a time when the health system is grappling with an increase in chronic lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, which she notes, is causing end-stage renal disease.
"Hence, to address the issue of renal disease, we have determined the need for specialist care for (these) patients," she points out.
The training programme comprises seven months of dedicated study, where the nurses are exposed to didactic and clinical teaching and field training.
Following an initial four weeks of full classroom training, the nurses have a schedule of two days of classroom teaching and three days of clinical experience in renal settings such as dialysis wards, clinics, and transplant and intensive care units and operating theatres.
The final component of the curriculum will see the nurses visiting the Jackson Memorial Hospital in the United States for one week of observation.
Nephrology nursing is concerned with the prevention, care and assessment of health needs of the adult and paediatric patient and their families, who are experiencing the real or threatened impact of acute or chronic renal failure. The focus of the course is on the provision of replacement therapy; self care teaching and assisting the individual to make informed choices.
The decision by the Ministry of Health to establish a formal training programme was taken following a needs analysis, which found that there was a shortage of nephrology nurses in the island, says Yvonne Young-Reid, the ministry's training and development officer for nurses.
"Out of this needs analysis, we recognised that there was a need to expose some of our nurses to nephrology training. The programme was not available locally. A proposal was submitted to the National Health Fund, and funding was approved. As a consequence, we're now able to develop our own local institution," she says.
This training programme, which was launched in June, is expected to increase the cohort of certified specialist nurses in the field, and concomitantly, enhance the efficiency of the country's renal care units. The training centre is managed by the Critical Care Unit at the Kingston Public Hospital.
IN another two months, the Ministry of Health will turn out its first four certified nephrology nurses.
The four say they are looking forward to their new status and appreciate the expanded role they will play in assisting the ministry to deal with the growing cases of kidney disease.
From their classroom adjacent to the Renal Unit of the Kingston Public Hospital, the four registered nurses, who, for the past five months, have been participating in the inaugural nephrology nurse training programme, spoke candidly of their experience to date.
"For me, knowledge has been increased. I feel more competent going back to the field," says nurse Maxine Simpson.
The studies have expanded her horizons, she affirms.
"You get a chance (to attend to) the person as he enters this acute renal failure, which is an opportunity that I've never been exposed to, being in the Dialysis Unit where the patient is at the end stage of renal function. Now you're seeing the patient when you can actually do something to reverse the phase, and I think that is just fabulous," she emphasises.
The ministry is hoping that the highly prepared nurses will be equipped to conduct research that will guide the ministry in determining policy and how patients are managed.
Daphne Bartley, a veteran nephrology nurse of some 30 years, who helped to formulate the curriculum for the training programme and is the first certified nephrology nurse in the profession, heartily endorses the introduction of the Jamaican-based training programme.
Nurse Bartley and with noted consultant nephrologist, Professor Lawson Douglas, have been working over the years to address the shortage of nurses and trained staff. Together, in the absence of a formal training programme, the two have been providing supervision and in-service training for scores of registered nurses operating in the Renal Units of the KPH and Cornwall Regional Hospital, as well as agitating for the enhancement of renal services.
President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, Edith Allwood-Anderson, notes,"The nephrology course, is very necessary. As a matter of fact, it is very vital and essential at this time, because the lifestyle diseases - diabetes, hypertension, all of those things sometimes affect the kidneys and the circulatory system, and so this course at this time will assist Jamaicans in getting a higher level of improved care."