It’s 3 a.m., and a vehicle arrives at the hospital. It’s carrying a patient, found on the ground outside a burning house.

What should a critical care nurse do?

This scenario, discussed by Haitian nurses in training, was part of an intensive weeklong course in critical care at University Hospital in Mirebalais, the national teaching hospital Partners In Health operates in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health.

We’re excited about the training because right now we have the equipment in the ICU—we just need the hands to use it.

The case was one of many that almost 30 Haitian nurses discussed during a week of intensive hands-on training, the kickoff to a yearlong program to prepare them to handle critical patients. The specialty certification will be a first for Haiti.

“We’re giving the staff the tools and the knowledge they need to receive the patients that they’re seeing,” said Marc Julmisse, chief nursing officer at University Hospital. “We don’t want nurses who are focused on tasks; we want nurses who are actively participating in patient care. Now our staff is confident that they can handle these types of patients.”

A lack of trained staff is a key reason why University Hospital has not yet opened its intensive care unit (ICU). The nurse training, which will continue for a year, is designed to make that possible.

“Critical care is a new experience for us. We will be seeing the sickest patients,” said Brutus Kettelie, a surgical nurse at University Hospital. “We’re excited about the training because right now we have the equipment in the ICU—we just need the hands to use it.”

The training was conducted in partnership with four French-speaking nurse experts from Canada, who work at the General Hospital of Montreal. Working alongside University Hospital nursing leaders, they helped tailor a curriculum and training schedule to fit the Haitian context.

Nurses learned about the conditions requiring critical care, including trauma, burns, emergent conditions such as appendicitis, and childbirth. Then they rehearsed the skills and responses they will need to care for such patients. For example, nurses learned that in trauma care, injuries can distract from the initial assessment and interventions that save trauma victims’ lives, known as the ABCs, for airway, breathing, and circulation.

 “We were delighted to be invited to participate in this project,” said Sophie Dussault, an emergency nurse at the General Hospital of Montreal. “We were very impressed by the knowledge, dedication, and enthusiasm of the nurses who participated in the bootcamp. We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to share our experiences and knowledge in nursing and learn in return from nurses at University Hospital.”

Learn more: 

Chief Nursing Officer Raises the Bar for Nusing in Haiti

Empowering Nurses to Improve Care in Haiti