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SHU Offers Tuition-free Master’s Degree for Ghanaian Nurses

Cohort of 14 will train fellow nurses, improve patient outcomes

From left are Rev. Francis Mfodwo who accompanied the Bishop, College of Nursing (CON) Dean Mary Alice Donius, SHU President John J. Petillo, Most Rev. Matthew K. Gyamfi, CON Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Sherylyn Watson, CON Associate Dean of Online Programs Karen Bauce, Rev. Joseph Domfeh Boateng of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Bedford, N.Y., and CON Associate Professor of Nursing Susan Goncalves.

Fourteen nurses in Ghana are earning their master’s degrees and will be able to educate student nurses and improve patient outcomes, thanks to an innovative, tuition-free partnership with Sacred Heart University.

The partnership between SHU’s College of Nursing and Ghana’s Holy Family Nursing & Midwifery Training College boosts faculty expertise and nurses’ training in the rural Sunyani region and helps SHU live out its mission to embrace social justice and make a difference in the global community.

“We’ve been helped along the way and we’ve grown, so now we’re helping another university grow,” said Sherylyn Watson, the College of Nursing’s associate dean of Academic Affairs.

The partnership began in April 2015 with a shared vision to offer a quality bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree program to future Ghanaian nurses and, in turn, improve health care in the region around Berekum, where the training college is located.

SHU faculty visited the 400-student college and determined the existing nursing program was the equivalent of an associate’s degree program by U.S. standards. The team decided faculty development would be the first step in boosting the program to the bachelor’s degree level. The initial interaction included site visits during which College of Nursing faculty provided workshops on creative teaching strategies and integrating research content into the curriculum.

In 2016, one faculty member from Holy Family enrolled in SHU’s 39-credit, master’s-level Nurse Educator online program, with tuition funded through SHU with the strong support of President John Petillo.

“He believes this is truly in keeping with the mission of the University,” said College of Nursing Dean Mary Alice Donius. “The primary focus of this initiative is education of the faculty that we believe is the foundation for really leaving a significant legacy.”

Noting the success of the first student, SHU welcomed a cohort of 14 Ghanaian nurses in March 2018. They are expected to complete their degrees online by April 2020, Watson said.

The second step is to provide the master of science degree in nursing education offered by the College of Nursing to 14 Holy Family faculty.

Once the faculty members earn their degrees, they will be able to teach BSN-level courses, increasing the skills and knowledge their fellow nurses take back to their villages and towns.

Nursing is a highly respected career choice in Ghana. The current cohort includes nine men and five women, Donius said.

“Nurses are very well respected there,” said Watson, who led the team establishing the partnership. “It’s a good, stable profession.”

The two colleges partnered through Mother Mary’s Mission, a nonprofit foundation working to improve conditions in Ghana. The program has been so successful, Bishop Matthew Gyamfi, who presides over more than 450 parishes in the Sunyani region, stopped at SHU to say thank you on a recent trip to the U.S.

In the future, Donius and Watson hope to create clinical study abroad opportunities for SHU nursing students at Holy Family, increasing the partnership’s reach for all nursing students.

“We feel professionally obligated to do things like this,” Watson said. “That’s our goal—to support nursing education globally.”