Expanding Nursing Education, Collaboration, and Access to Care in Botswana
Access to primary and specialty healthcare in Botswana is often lacking due to the limited number of trained healthcare clinicians who can provide appropriate care, especially in rural areas which dominate much of the country. This shortage has resulted in higher mortality and disability rates for many conditions, and complications that could have been either prevented or easily treated with better access to care. Highly skilled Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) are best placed to assist with this healthcare shortage by providing assessment and treatment of illnesses, health promotion and other crucial health service initiatives. The University of Botswana is currently the only university to offer Masters level Advanced Practice Nursing Programmes in Africa and recruitment on such courses, although usually government funded, has been limited by the challenges students face related to the local geography and time demands.
Dr Deborah Gray and a team at the University of Botswana worked together to enhance the educational services the university provided to nursing students in the region to facilitate an increase of student numbers. Dr Gray, Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Old Dominion University in Virginia, USA, used her experience in APN education, telehealth, and web-based programme development to convert the APN programmes into more accessible online versions that are expanding educational outreach for nurses, and enhancing care in the country and the region.
The rise in student numbers is intended to increase the number of overall Family Nurse Practitioners, Community Health Nursing Specialists, Advanced Midwives, Adult Health Nursing Specialists, Paediatric Health Nursing Specialists and Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Specialists who are able to provide much needed care in Botswana and other countries in Africa.
As a dedicated healthcare professional, nursing leader and educator, Dr Gray worked in collaboration with other nursing professionals to enhance the nursing care workforce in vulnerable rural areas. More importantly, her work boosted the role of nursing in Botswana by empowering nurses and enabling them to pursue further education, leading to better health outcomes in Botswana and across Africa.