By Cameron Scott
In September 2019, Kimberly Baltzell, RN, PhD, MS, associate professor in the UCSF School of Nursing and faculty affiliate at the Institute for Global Health Sciences, received a $2.5-million gift from the Wyss Medical Foundation to support the development of nurse leadership in Malawi, Sierra Leone and Liberia, with a focus on reducing the risk of complications and death during childbirth.
The Wyss Medical Foundation funding will dramatically expand Baltzell’s Global Action in Nursing (GAIN) project.
Malawi has the highest rate of preterm births in the world and high rates of newborn death. Sierra Leone is the single most dangerous place to give birth in the world.
GAIN already provides Malawian nurses – who, like many in developing countries, don’t receive mentored practical training after graduation – with directed training followed by year-long intensive mentoring with expert nurse-midwives. The nurses appreciate the training. “I work confidently because I have all the skills and resources to be used. When I am not sure, I refer to my GAIN guidelines to be sure of the answer,” one participant said.
The gift will kickstart similar programs in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the supply of healthcare providers has been strained since many died or quit during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. It will also support additional work with the national ministries of health and nursing councils to develop educational pathways for more skilled nursing roles.
GAIN training programs give nurses the expertise and mentorship they need “to handle, or more importantly to recognize when something is going to go sideways and refer patients to higher levels of care. You don’t want to wait until someone is in the middle of a hemorrhage to transfer them,” Baltzell explained.
GAIN expects to produce 1,000 new nurses and provide additional pregnancy and delivery training for 500 practicing nurses, each of whom will deliver, on average, 25 babies a month. In Malawi, the statistics suggest that each provider will have at least one opportunity every month to save a baby who would otherwise die.