Nursing professor named Nurse of the Year

November 26, 2013 | 11 a.m.

March of Dimes recognizes Karen Drake's achievements

News | Michael Urch


Photo for The Clarion by Kristine Schmidt

March of Dimes recently recognized Behtel professor Karen Drake for her contribution to nursing education in Uganda. She was awarded with the title Distinguished Nurse of the Year. While helping the Ugandan Christian University (UCU) establish a bachelor program, she saw the need for a masters program. Bethel has paired with UCU and is now teaching 15 students in the university's fourth cohort.

Ugandan students are brought to Bethel for a period of time. They use the simulation facilities, interact with nurses at the PhD level, and benefit from cross-cultural experience.

According to Drake, the primary focus of the program is to develop nursing educators. Annette Kanyunyuzi, one Ugandan student who is currently at Bethel. She has already taught and plans to continue teaching nursing in Uganda.

“I have learned through observing professors here how to best bring out the teacher-student relationship,” Kanyunyuzi said. “I’ve begun to apply it in my own classrooms now, and it does bring a big difference.”

Academically-oriented nursing education has only recently started growing in Uganda. Previously, nursing was taught in hospitals. UCU was the first Ugandan university to offer a bachelor's in nursing.

Drake’s work with UCU has had a great impact on Uganda, a country where the limited number of doctors makes nurses all the more important.

“[Bethel’s program] has given us an opportunity to gain skills that will possibly benefit all of the [nursing] education in Uganda,” said Janet Obuni, Ugandan masters student and president of the Uganda Nurses and Midwifes Union.

“I would like to thank Bethel University for giving us this opportunity and for allowing Professor Karen to initiate the nursing program in Uganda,” she said.

The relationship between Bethel and UCU is not lopsided. According to Bethel nursing department chair Beth Peterson, it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

“It’s not just that we somehow go there and help them or that their students come here and we help. We have 16 CAS students there right now,” she said.

In addition to this, Ugandan students who come to Bethel interact with Bethel students, allowing both groups to learn new things.

“I think we can learn from one another, and make our world better,” Obuni said.

The current program, with Ugandan students coming here, is a short-term solution to support a long-term investment in Ugandan nursing education. This is a mentality that is not new to the nursing department.

“It has just been kind of one step at a time over the long hall that has gotten us where we are today,” said Peterson.

“The whole idea is to develop the capacity to develop leadership,” Drake said. “As our critical mass [of masters students] grows, it may be less and less necessary to bring them here.”

Thirteen students have already graduated from this program and the third cohort, a class of nine, will graduate in May. This will free up room to begin a fifth cohort. Regardless, Drake does not view this as a game of numbers.

“My greatest fruits are seeing my students do things…the best thing is to see them learning, taking the leadership and moving forward,” she said.


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