PIH Fellowship Cultivates Nurses As Leaders
Alumni reflect on Global Nurse Executive Fellowship
Posted on May 3, 2022
Growing up in rural Rwanda, Florence Musabyemariya used to get sick as a child and “really feared infection.” It was always nurses, she says, who calmed her and helped her feel safe to continue her treatments and check-ups, which included painful shots.
“They assured me that it wouldn’t hurt and that assurance always worked for me as a kid,” she says. “Those nurses who were taking care of me inspired me to join the profession.”
Now, Musabyemariya has been a nurse for more than 10 years and was among the second cohort of the Global Nurse Executive Fellowship (GNEF)—Partners In Health’s fellowship for nurses and midwives on staff who show outstanding leadership and the desire to tackle global health challenges and transform health systems.
Nurses account for nearly 50% of health workers worldwide. Yet they often receive little pay, training, and recognition. Since 2017, PIH’s GNEF program has aimed to upend part of that paradigm, providing nurses the opportunity to gain new theoretical knowledge and develop their practical skills to succeed in executive positions. The fellowship accepts a new cohort of nurses each year from the 11 countries where PIH works.
In honor of Nurses Week, PIH caught up with alumni of the first and second cohorts to learn how the fellowship has impacted their careers.
Emmanuel Dushimimana has been a nurse in his home country of Rwanda since 2010—a career journey that began following the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, which claimed the lives of over a million people and significantly destroyed health infrastructure. In 2011, he joined the nursing staff at Butaro Hospital, which PIH built in partnership with the Ministry of Health and MASS Design. He decided to apply for the GNEF program to learn about nurse leadership and management.
Through the fellowship, he learned about how to lead a team of nurses, how to improve the quality of nursing services, and best practices for prioritizing tasks. Since completing the program, he has implemented quality improvement projects for the nursing unit at Butaro Hospital, put his supervision and coaching skills to use while managing nursing staff, and continued to advocate for nurses and midwives in the hospital and beyond.
“The fellowship impacted me very much,” he says. “It helped me as a nurse leader to work toward a vision and goals.”
Gretta Joseph has worked with the nursing team at Zanmi Lasante, PIH’s sister organization in Haiti, since 2009, first as a bedside nurse anesthetist and then as a head nurse anesthesiologist. But she has been a nurse since she was 19 years old—and the seeds for that career journey were planted much earlier, when she was a young girl who went to the hospital for a biopsy and saw her mother’s cousin, a nurse, at work caring for patients.
Through the GNEF program, where she was part of the second cohort, Joseph learned about leadership, teambuilding, and mental health—crucial skills for nurses in executive positions.
“It is important to have nurses as leaders in care,” she says. “The nurse is the patient’s advocate.”
Since the fellowship, she has been promoted from deputy chief nursing officer to chief nursing officer at Hospital Universitaire de Mirebalais (the largest hospital supported by Zanmi Lasante). With the knowledge and skills she gained through GNEF, she can better manage budgets, grants, and other administrative and managerial duties. She also continues to have the support of other alumni and mentors from the fellowship as she works to improve her team.
When Musabyemariya applied for GNEF’s second cohort, she had just been promoted to a manager-level role with PIH in Kirehe, Rwanda. She wanted to grow her management skills to ensure she could support her team and be equipped to handle the challenges that would come with the role.
The program helped her develop those skills and more, including identifying and working toward a vision, managing a diverse team, and building a network of clinical leaders to support her professional development.
Since completing the fellowship, Musabyemariya has launched a continuous professional development program for nurses at PIH’s site in Kayonza, where she currently works, aiming to bridge the knowledge gap for nurses.
“Nurses are leaders and should be in leadership roles,” she says. “The fellowship has equipped me with knowledge and skills and has changed the way I make decisions and respond to challenges.”
When Saidath Gato was 14 years old, she met the midwife who supported her mother during her birth—an experience that had a lasting impact. Now, she has been a nurse-midwife for 12 years, serving patients in hospitals throughout Rwanda and mentoring midwives. For the past five years, she has worked with PIH, focusing on maternal and child health care. As she reflected on her career path, from bedside midwife to midwife mentor, she decided to apply for GNEF’s second cohort to deepen her leadership skills.
The fellowship, she says, helped her learn invaluable management skills, including the importance of giving and receiving feedback from her team and understanding leadership styles.
“I believe that leading an organization effectively and efficiently doesn’t require knowing everything. But understanding how to use team members’ talents is key,” she says.
Since completing the fellowship, she has put those skills to use, managing her team more effectively, publishing research with her team, and developing a curriculum for adolescent health services—projects that demonstrate the importance of the education in leadership and management that GNEF provides.
“It is important for nurses and midwives to be in leadership roles, as they are the ones who really know and understand the reality of the health facilities’ needs,” she says. “My professional life changed when I really defined and understood who I am and who I want to be.”