PAHO/WHO and University of North Carolina collaborate with Ministry of Health and Wellness and partners to strengthen nursing education and boost capacity of nurses in Belize

Nursing Mission in Belize

Belize City, Belize, November 29, 2022 (PAHO) – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and its Collaborating Center on Nursing at the University of North Carolina (UNC) collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) and partners to strengthen nursing education to improve emergency preparedness in Belize.

Belize was identified by PAHO’s Subregional Program as one of the countries that can benefit from a pilot project being conducted in the Caribbean region. The pilot project, ‘Strengthening Nursing Education in the Caribbean to Improve Emergency Preparedness,’ aims to assess the alignment of Belize’s nursing program to the Curriculum for Registered Nursing Education Programme BSc Nursing for CARICOM countries and strengthen the clinical care learning among nurses through the improvement of simulation laboratories in nursing schools.   

With low retention and high turnover rates, the Region of the Caribbean has been and continues to experience a critical shortage of nurses and assistive health personnel. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the importance and priority of training healthcare workers in emergency preparedness, response, and immunization. Thus, the country must invest in nursing education that will ensure more equitable access to care, better preparation in emergencies, and improved health outcomes.

“As countries struggle to provide universal coverage and access to care, in a changing health system, with an increase in non-communicable diseases, emerging diseases, and the effects of climate change on the social determinants of health, essential human resources for health are critical to forging the gaps in health and wellness,” said Ms. Lizett Bell, Deputy Director of Health Services, Nursing and Allied Health/Chief Nursing Officer of the MoHW. “Nursing education is a key strategy that will assist countries to ensure that adequate care is available to meet the needs of the country’s population. In addition, recruitment and retention strategies are key in this global climate of shortage of nursing personnel. This project will strengthen the quality of nursing education, preparing a competent novice nurse for the workforce.”

The UNC visiting team, including an Assistant Professor, a Clinical Assistant Professor and Lecturer in Nursing, and a Nursing Programme Coordinator from the University of the West Indies in Cave Hill - Barbados, along with PAHO/WHO, the MoHW, and representatives from the Nurses and Midwives Council of Belize and the Nurses Association of Belize assessed and visited the School of Nursing at the University of Belize.

In assessing the nursing program, the team reviewed the academic curricula, inspected classrooms, simulation labs, library including textbooks and materials, computer rooms including informatics programs and internet access, and teaching hospital/clinical areas. The team also had an open discussion about the programme with faculty and students at the Faculty of Nursing, Allied Health, and Social Work of the University of Belize.

“Students, lecturers, and clinical instructors welcomed the opportunity to share their challenges and the potential future threats to nursing education in Belize,” said Mrs. Isidora Paquiul-Espadas, Chair of the Nursing Department at the University of Belize. “The aim to provide quality and relevant nursing education can be realized with sufficient human resources, continuing professional development, and the necessary physical infrastructures in place. A national unified approach is critical to addressing these challenges. We are optimistic that the report from this collaboration will ultimately lead to the creation of strategic changes and policy decisions regarding nurses and nursing education in Belize. This report will also provide valuable information for the upcoming program review of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2023.”

The assessment report developed through this mission will also act as a valuable resource in the University of Belize’s upcoming 2023 review of its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

Dr. Benjamin Puertas, PAHO/WHO Subregional Advisor in Human Resources for Health, considered that “the pilot in Belize provided essential elements that will be useful when applying the project in other countries, such as the importance of combining local and international expertise in the assessment.” Dr. Puertas mentioned that PAHO/WHO is procuring some equipment to support the simulation lab in Belize.

Nursing Mission in Belize