Nursing student working to create mobile health care clinic in Haiti

Monique Balthazar has a dream for her relatives in Haiti. As part of her dual doctorate program, the second-year graduate student at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University wants to create a mobile health clinic to reach inhabitants of the remote, mountainous areas of Haiti as well as people in tent cities in places like Port-Au-Prince.

After visiting Haiti last year, months after the damaging earthquake, Balthazar, a student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice and doctorate program, saw a need for a way to take health care to people—rather than sick or injured people traveling for days to get the care they need.

So Balthazar, who is a family nurse practitioner from Okemos, Mich., proposed the idea to Haiti’s Adventist University. But she soon learned she had more than a few obstacles to overcome before realizing her goal.

First and foremost, she needed nurses with advanced skills to staff the mobile clinic, and practitioners qualified to diagnose conditions are rare in Haiti. To alleviate this issue, she is working with Adventist University to create a local advanced nursing degree program. Once trained in the program, these nurses will provide steady staffing for the mobile clinics.

Next, “we have to decide on the top five or 10 health areas that they want to concentrate on in this advanced program,” she said.

Once that’s decided, Balthazar will design the curriculum. Adventist University faculty will sustain and administer the program on an ongoing basis, but Balthazar’s consultation and initial contributions will be invaluable to a university short on resources.

“Adventist University loves this program and wants to see it happen,” Balthazar said, “ but it’s going to be a group effort to get it going.”

And while it has been slow going on the road to her mobile clinic, Balthazar received some sage advice about starting new programs from her adviser, Liz Madigan, who is a nursing professor and a researcher in international nursing education in developed and developing nations.

“Professor Madigan told me to take it one step at a time and realize health care in a developing country is much different from the technically advanced system found in the United States,” Balthazar said.

While Balthazar knows that the mobile unit will not solve all of Haiti’s healthcare access problems, she remains hopeful that it might someday develop into a fleet of units unrestrained by location.