July 9, 2004

Nursing dean travels to Bahrain to help develop emergency response, public health

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Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing, second from right, visited a hospital in Bahrain and met with several nurses during a recent trip with delegates from the U.S. State Department. Courtesy National Center for Emergency Preparedness

Nursing dean travels to Bahrain to help develop emergency response, public health

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing, recently embarked on a journey to the Middle East to help the government of Bahrain develop emergency response programs to handle terrorism and public health emergencies.

Conway-Welch traveled to the country, known as the first great civilization of the Middle East, with a delegation from the U.S. State Department on a week-long trip.

She was joined by Stephen Guillot, director of the National Center for Emergency Preparedness (NCEP), which operates out of the School of Nursing, and Seth Wright, M.D., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at VUMC.

“We were invited by the Department of State to join representatives from New Mexico Tech. University. They have expertise in managing terroristic threats, and Vanderbilt was asked for our medical assets and abilities in educational technology to train people in managing health care and public health emergencies,” said Guillot.

Conway-Welch said the reputation of the NCEP earned Vanderbilt its place in the project.

“Our NCEP is taking on more and more projects and being recognized for its expertise, particularly in content delivery and learning management systems. It is a unique niche,” said Conway-Welch.

The team of U.S. delegates gathered in Manama, the capitol of Bahrain, a large group of islands in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia. The country has a population of approximately 678,000.

The delegates met with top Bahrainian officials and health care workers, and offered weeklong training seminars and discussion. “They were interested in learning about our national incident management system, and this is all open-source information,” said Guillot. “Which means it is information that is safe to share with other countries. “

Bahrain became a monarchy in 2002, and is a developed country with modern medical care. The country has two government hospitals, several private hospitals, and numerous private clinics. The largest public hospital is the 1,000-bed Salmaniya Medical Center, a general teaching hospital. The government also maintains the Bahrain Military Hospital, with 135 beds.

Almost all primary and secondary treatment within the public health system in Bahrain is free to citizens and foreign residents. Conway-Welch had the opportunity to visit one of the hospitals in Manama, and met several nurses who attended the conference.

“I visited with mostly emergency room nurses giving and directing care. They had impressive interpersonal skills, worked well with physicians and others, and emphasized a family-centered approach,” said Conway-Welch.

The dean said she and the Minister of Health in Bahrain are currently discussing creating a joint distance program that would bring Bahrainian nurses to Vanderbilt and potentially send students in Vanderbilt’s nursing program to Bahrain to gain clinical experience. “They are very interested in advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners. They have a need for acute care nurse practitioners, particularly those with a focus in emergency care,” said Conway-Welch.

The U.S. delegation involved in the emergency response conference plan to make a return trip to Bahrain sometime later this year.

Last week, the State Department asked U.S. citizens in Bahrain to consider departing the country due to the heightened threat of a terrorist or extremist attack in the kingdom.