The Ebola Crisis Highlights the Need for Strong Nursing Education

CynthiaHouseofCommonsApr2014-1Almost every day when I turn on the TV, radio, or open a newspaper, there is an update on the worsening Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and on health professionals’ efforts to contain it. Sometimes, the nursing workforce in particular is spotlighted: their dedication to their patients, their efforts to educate the public, their exhaustion, the lack of equipment and facilities many are working with, and of course, the tragic deaths of nurses who have contracted Ebola. Many of these nurses have contracted the disease in the early outbreak stages before realizing they aren’t dealing with the flu, or because they don’t have enough protective equipment (gloves, masks, etc.). Like many Canadians, I have pondered what would happen if there were an outbreak in our country. As a nurse educator, it reminds me once again of the importance of ensuring all registered nurses enter practice with a preparation in public health. Every nurse should be familiar with health promotion and disease prevention strategies, and be able to communicate them effectively to the public. Every nurse needs to be able to assess communities and populations as well as individuals regardless of where they work or specialize. {CASN recently published entry-to-practice public health nursing competencies that identifies what all new registered nurses should be able to do with regards to working from a population health lens.} For nurses who work in the community or in public health, the competencies are an especially important foundation for their practice. In Canada, we are fortunate to have infrastructure and equipment that would allow for a swift response and would likely keep our health workers safe. In West Africa the lack of infrastructure, equipment, personnel, and funds must all be considered in controlling this epidemic and preventing a new one. Globalization has accelerated and furthered the reach of any communicable disease that emerges, but it also presents us with opportunities to work together as nurse educators on a global scale, and as citizens of a global community. Although it may be a small commitment, I hope that CASN can share ideas on nursing education in this area with colleagues around the world…

Click here to view the Entry-to-Practice Public Health Nursing Competencies for Undergraduate Nursing Education.

Do you have thoughts on the competencies? Ideas on how they can be integrated into curriculum?  The nursing workforce during this health crisis?  – Join the conversation on Twitter @CASN43 include #CASNPH

Cynthia Baker, RN, PhD.
Executive Director, CASN