News Release: International, Teaching

Sep. 1,  2009

Georgia-to-Georgia Partnership: Emory Awarded Nearly $2 Million

To Develop Nursing Program and Train Nurses in Tbilisi, Georgia

Emory University has been awarded a nearly $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a nursing program and train over 1,600 nurses in the country of Georgia, the former Soviet Republic.

The immediate goal is to improve the standards of currently practicing nurses through in-service vocational training (both classroom and clinical), with a long-term goal of establishing a degree-granting nursing school that will produce future leaders of the nursing profession in Georgia.

The funds from this two-year grant will go towards constructing classroom space, a simulation lab and a clinical skill laboratory for the participants at a chosen hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia, as well as to staff the program with teachers, on-site instructors and needed supplies. A modern, state-of-the-art nursing unit will be established in the hospital, providing practicing nurses and later, degree students, an opportunity to see and work in an optimal nursing environment. This unit will be the model for hospitals throughout the country of Georgia.

Physicians and nurses from Emory, including the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, are participating in this training program and will travel to and from Tbilisi over the next two years to mold and sustain the program.

"This program is a collaborative effort between a group of Atlanta experts interested in international health, the U.S. Government, the former Soviet Georgia Government and the private health care sector of the country," says Kenneth Walker, MD, professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. Walker is a practicing physician at Grady Memorial Hospital and principal investigator (PI) of the grant.

"The potential is a long-term collaborative partnership that can help in changing the face of health care and nursing in the country of Georgia," says Walker. "During the program we will be developing a template for Emory to use for nursing education in other transitional countries."

Health care was the system that suffered the most with the economical and political crisis following the breaking of the Soviet Union, according to the Emory team. With a centralized Soviet budget no longer providing funds for free health, radical change was necessary, with the help of external experts experienced in modern understanding of health care delivery.

"This grant allows us to give the gift of knowledge to other nurses in our field more than 6,000 miles away," says Laura Hurt, BSN, MHA, RN, NEA, BC, director of nursing operations at Emory University Hospital Midtown and co-PI for the USAID grant. Hurt will make multiple trips to Tbilisi to get the program up and running, then begin the teaching process.

"In the United States, we have systems where medical knowledge can be shared, but many developing countries do not," Hurt says. "Our teaching efforts can assist nurses in the former Soviet Georgia to improve their standards, guided by evidence-based practices. Then each group of newly trained nurses can hand down their recently acquired knowledge to the next group of training nurses."

When the program gets underway in November, the first group of nurses to be trained will be those who have potential to teach others. Following the first round of training, those nurses will then teach the next cycle, under close supervision by the Atlanta faculty. All participants will complete a general nursing course and one or two specialty nursing courses. Some nurses will be selected to train for leadership and management positions.

A prime goal of the grant is to greatly elevate the professional level of nurses. These programs are designed to be sustainable by local nurses after the grant is finished.  

"We have laid the groundwork for starting a baccalaureate program in the former Soviet Georgia," says Judith Wold, PhD, RN, visiting professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and nursing education director for the grant. Wold will be directly involved in both the continuing and higher education portions of the grant. "We have worked with nurses in Georgia since 1993 and they are eager to increase their skills and knowledge level to better care for their patients."

A pediatric nurse from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Kim Crawford, RN, MSN, MPH, FNP-C, will live in Tbilisi for one year to train on-site, while other Emory nurses in a variety of specialties will travel there to teach in two-week stints.

Crawford, an Emory University alumnus, has been working in the Georgia since 2004, with a main focus on the nursing education aspect of an emergency medicine grant currently in progress.

Archil Undilashvili, MD, MPH, MBA, MHA, Emory alumnus from the Department of Medicine and grant co-PI will direct the program from Emory. Keti Stvilia, MD, MS, will direct the program from Tbilisi. Stvilia oversees an office with six staff members who will implement the grant.

"There is a huge demand for well trained professional nurses in our country," says Stvilia. "We hope much that the vocation nursing training program will build a solid basis for the degree nursing programs in Georgia."

Nurses from 42 Georgian hospitals will take part in this two-year certificate program. At the end of the training period, the goal is for each of the hospitals to have a team of nurses trained in clinical education and management in place.

During the second year of the program, the partnership will explore making both the vocational education and school components available to nurses in surrounding countries.

Emory University first appeared in the Former Soviet Country of Georgia in 1992 when Walker visited the capital city, Tbilisi and started the partnership with one of the hospitals and Emory. In a few years, this partnership grew into more solid collaboration of Emory and Georgia's entire health care system. The Emory-Georgia partnership has been a great success story and example of the importance of distribution and sharing of knowledge and expertise.

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