U-M Developing Nursing Program in Ghana

The first class of graduates is expected to play an important role in health care for years to come.


“Nurses have the ability to make the strongest impact,” says University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) Ph.D. student Sue Anne Bell, MSN, FNP-BC. “They’re the first ones to have contact with the patient and they have the most sustained contact with the patient. There is a strong need for highly trained and professional nurses.Sue Anne Bell with Ghanaian colleagues

Bell is part of a group of UMSN and U-M Health System professionals and students involved in developing emergency health care in Ghana. The team includes UMSN professor Dr. Richard W. Redman and doctoral student Jeremy Lapham. Bell has extensive experience in international health care having worked in countries including India and Cambodia. She says her opportunity to get involved with U-M’s Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative was a matter of having the right experience at the right time. “At one time, I was an emergency room nurse practitioner. They were looking for a nurse with expertise in emergency health care and someone who had experience in Ghana. There aren’t too many people who fit that bill so it all fell into place,” says Bell.

Bell and colleagues developed a 12-month nursing education program designed to graduate specialists in emergency nursing. Now the team sends someone to Ghana to teach for two weeks every month. Bell says she goes about four times a year.

Exterior image of Ghanaian hospitalThe team is using a “train-the-trainers” approach designed for the current students to eventually become the educators. The first cohort of 25 students is expected to graduate in August. Bell estimates it will take three or four graduating classes before Ghanaian emergency nurses gain the skills to assume leadership of the program. “In ten years when the current students are the leaders in emergency nursing for Sub-Saharan Africa, I can say I had a small piece in making that happen, and I’m really proud of that,” says Bell. “I’d also like to see sustainability and to see our program that’s training nurses in the city of Kumasi used throughout the rest of Ghana and Western Africa.