GAIA and GAIN Inaugurate 40 New Nursing Scholars

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November 9, 2023

GAIA and GAIN Celebrate a Growing Partnership with the Inauguration of 40 New Nursing Scholars

On October 8, GAIA welcomed 40 new students into the Nursing Scholar Program at an official inauguration ceremony at Mzuzu University in Mzimba District, Malawi. This new cohort marks a growing partnership with the University of California San Francisco’s Global Action in Nursing (GAIN) program, which is funding two-year scholarships to upgrade these students’ qualifications from diploma to bachelor-level nurse-midwives.

With only 7 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10,000 people in Malawi (compared to 50 in South Africa and 157 in the United States) and a 55% public sector nurse vacancy rate, this exciting new chapter of the GAIA/GAIN partnership increases the number of more highly qualified nurse-midwives working on the frontlines, expands the scope of nursing cadres supported by GAIA, and strengthens key stakeholder relationships with Mzuzu University, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM).

“Our partnership with GAIN, the MOH and Mzuzu University has enabled GAIA to directly contribute to the Malawi government’s priority of improving access to quality, affordable health services nationwide by increasing the number of trained nurses and midwives with higher qualifications working in the public sector." - Joyce Jere, GAIA Country Director

GAIA worked closely with the MOH and CHAM to select scholarship recipients that were preapproved by their worksites to pursue advanced training, ensuring that scholars have guaranteed employment after graduation.

Upgrading the qualifications of these nurse-midwives will improve the quality and capacity of rural health facilities nationwide, directly impacting maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) outcomes. With higher qualifications and enhanced clinical skills, Scholars will have new opportunities for career advancement, which has been shown through previous GAIA/UCSF research to improve retention in the local workforce and increase overall job satisfaction.

“I am one of many GAIA Scholars in Malawi and I currently work for GAIA with the GAIN project as a nurse-midwife mentor. In my role, I train nurse-midwives in the management of labor, delivery and obstetric complications. Supporting these nurses to upgrade their qualifications is of paramount importance as it will help to improve their critical thinking and decision-making abilities when it comes to patient care and management of complications, thereby improving Malawi’s maternal and neonatal health outcomes. It will also provide them with a solid foundation to upgrade their careers, while helping to support their families with financial resources that would otherwise go toward tuition.” - Luseshelo Simwinga, GAIA Nursing Scholar, GAIN Nurse-Midwife Mentor

Since our partnership launched in 2018, GAIN has supported a total of 146 nursing students, with 60 receiving two years of GAIN-funded scholarship support. GAIA also works with GAIN to decrease maternal and neonatal mortality in Malawi through bedside clinical mentorship of nurses and midwives and, in 2022, GAIN support enabled GAIA to hire an MNCH Coordinator to oversee scholarship program expansion, research activities and GAIN’s clinical mentorship work in Blantyre District.  

From left: GAIN Expert Nurse Mentor, Richard Malirakwenda; St. John Institute for Health Dean, Ms. Eunice Nyirenda (Inauguration Guest Speaker); GAIA/GAIN Scholars; and GAIA/GAIN MNCH Coordinator, Oveka Jana.

ABOUT GAIA: GAIA has supported 750 Malawian nursing students, with more than 500 graduates to date. Deployed across 27 of Malawi’s 28 districts, Scholars make up 10% of Malawi’s public nursing sector. Scholarships improve the quality, scope and reach of Malawi’s health services – positively impacting MNCH health outcomes, as evident by notable improvements in maternal (849 to 451 per 100k births from 2004-2016) and under 5 mortality (111 to 39 per 1k births from 2005-2020) rates since the program’s launch in 2005.  In addition to supporting nurse education and training, GAIA provides community-based healthcare through community outreach, education and mobile health clinics.  

ABOUT GAIN: GAIN was founded by nurses in the UCSF School of Nursing, in collaboration with Malawian partners. Investing in nurses and midwives to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes is at the heart of GAIN’s mission. Over 300 nurses have received intensive clinical training and long-term bedside mentorship from GAIN providers in Liberia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone. Traditionally, nurses and midwives in GAIN partner sites do not have formal mentorship after graduation and upon deployment. This dedicated focus helps improve clinical practice, retention rates, and ultimately, patient outcomes. GAIN’s work has resulted in significant reductions in stillbirths and deaths due to postpartum hemorrhage, among other improvements in patient outcomes. See GAIN's website for more information.

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