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PACIFIC ISLAND NURSES BEGIN BACHELOR OF SCIENCE TRAINING AT UMFK Fort Kent campus providing RN to BSN training for Marshallese students

July 16, 2012

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The University of Maine at Fort Kent has welcomed 14 nurses from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), who will spend an intensive 5-week summer session on the UMFK campus, as part of a two-year, online, Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

The nurses arrived stateside last week. The nurse/students will reside in UMFK residence halls, and engage in a number of co-curricular, recreational, and cultural activities during their stay in Fort Kent.

The Pacific nation nursing students are enrolled in UMFK's online program thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Freeman Foundation to The Friends of the College of the Marshall Islands. The project will deliver a Bachelor of Science program in nursing to a select group of nursing graduates, each of whom has been certified as a nurse by their local jurisdictions.

The select individuals will receive two intensive summer sessions at UMFK, one this summer and another next year, as well as closely-supervised and well-supported online instruction in their local jurisdiction. The nurses will continue to work throughout their program of study, except during the two summer sessions.

The goals of the curriculum will be to raise the prevailing standard of care for tertiary healthcare in the Marshall Islands to a level more closely equivalent to current U.S. standards; provide a baseline for healthcare certification in the Marshall Islands comparable to the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine recommendations for U.S. nursing care in 2020; and, recommend standards to the Pacific Islands Health Officers Association and the Western Regional Office of the World Health Organization's (WHO) western regional office, for adoption in the Freely Associated States of Micronesia.

The Friends of the College of the Marshall Islands has carried out a Pacific Healthcare Initiative during the past five years with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Hawaii, the Bank of Guam, and a variety of other funders. It has been joined by the WHO; the Pacific Islands Health Officers Association; Human Resources in Health initiative; and, the American Pacific Nursing Leaders Education Committee.

The Pacific Healthcare Initiative has studied nursing workforce needs in the Pacific and has identified educational opportunities that it believes will bring nursing instruction to a new level in the region, by providing a healthcare workforce education that more closely approaches a mainland “standard of care.” Those standards were sent forth in the 2010 U.S. Institute of Medicine report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” and the 2009 WHO report Global Standards for the Initial Education of Professional Nurses and Midwives.

The Freeman Foundation grant will cover 50 percent of the direct project costs during the 2012 and 2013 academic years to implement an RN to BSN program for the 15-nurse cohort.

The Freeman Foundation support over the two-year period will allow CMI to implement a Bachelor of Science in nursing curriculum to supplement and upgrade the current registered nurse workforce. The curriculum -- based upon joint research conducted under a Robert Wood Johnson grant in concert with the Friends of CMI, the University of Hawaii, and the World Health Organization's Western Regional Office -- will raise the standards of care consistent with emerging trends recommended by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine.

The BSN curriculum will be delivered to a cohort of CMI registered nurse graduates in a “blended” environment that features: 1) emersion-based English as a Foreign Language instruction and 2) online instruction (the first online bachelor's program to be offered in the RMI since the introduction of broadband internet services in 2009.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean. The country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia, with a population of approximately 68,000 people, spread out over 34 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets.