Approval for Adventist University
Pending in Paraguayan Congress
School expected to quicken the pulse of nursing in a country with one nurse for every 10,000 people
BY ELIZABETH LECHLEITNER and ANSEL OLIVER, Adventist News Network
eventh-day Adventists in Paraguay hope the forthcoming launch of their country’s first church-run university will help alleviate a nursing shortage in the South American nation while strengthening the church’s ministry there.
The school—currently awaiting approval in Paraguay’s National Congress—would help staff the country’s two church-run hospitals and offer Paraguayan students the option of a local education, advocates say.
NURSING ADVOCATE: Dr. Jan Marie Nick, a certified nurse educator and professor at Loma Linda University School of Nursing, is helping Adventists in Paraguay establish a nursing education program.
The Adventist university closest to Paraguay is located in neighboring Argentina, more than 600 miles away. But Paraguayan students, whose country has one of the lowest cost-of-living indices in South America, often find higher education costs prohibitive, especially when it requires travel, says Jan Marie Nick, a certified nurse educator and professor at Loma Linda University School of Nursing.
For those who do enroll, many—drawn by better working conditions and higher salaries—seek jobs in countries such as Italy and Spain after graduation. “Paraguay is facing an exodus of nurses,” Nick says. She estimates that up to 60 percent of the country’s nurses are leaving the region.
With a current ratio of one nurse for every 10,000 people, the landlocked nation of nearly 7 million falls well below the World Health Organization’s recommendation of at least 10 nurses per 10,000 people, she says.
Nick, who received a Fullbright scholarship to address the nursing shortage in Paraguay, spent much of last year developing a curriculum for the new university with other educators.
“When they get permission to start the school, the program will be ready,” she says.
While plans for the institution were first limited to a school of nursing, they’ve expanded to eventually include degree programs in health sciences, economic science, administration, social sciences, humanities, and education science, says Fernando Muller, president of the church’s Paraguay Mission.
Initially, nursing classes will meet in classrooms on the campus of a church-run secondary school in the country’s capital, Asuncion, he says. “That will allow us to begin with a small investment, but begin the first year of nursing as soon as possible.”
With two Adventist hospitals operating in the country, the church has an “enormous responsibility” to staff them with professionals who emphasize both physical and spiritual health, Muller notes.
SCHOOL OF NURSING: Loma Linda University’s School of Nursing is renowned for its educational program. A professor there is reaching out to help spur nursing education in Paraguay.
Assuming the school is approved, Nick hopes the fledgling institution will capitalize on resource and faculty sharing to broaden its curriculum.
With a dozen Spanish-speaking Adventist universities already operating in South America, “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel of the Adventist nursing program at every new school,” she says.
Nick imagines a network of nursing programs; each providing a few expert faculty members whose lectures and resources would be shared among the schools. “One school says, ‘We’ll provide the content for [medical-surgical nursing], you cover [obstetrics],’” she says.
A “stronger connection” among the nursing programs would particularly benefit smaller countries with fewer resources, such as Paraguay, Nick says.
--Ivette Hernandez contributed to this story