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Universal language of nursing care

Dr. Barbara Ott mentors Haitian nurses as new hospital opens

Dr. Barbara Ott and Haitian nurse Renandine Quiteau assess a surgical patient in the new post-anesthesia care unit of the Hôpital Universitaire Mirebalais.


Returning to Haiti three and a half years after participating in an Operation Smile surgical mission necessitated by the devastating earthquake of January 2010, Barbara Ott, PhD, RN mentored and taught Haitian nurses as their new hospital opened.

The College of Nursing associate professor, a content expert in critical care and biomedical ethics, is a veteran of over 20 missions with Operation Smile. She volunteered when the organization emailed requesting her for this project. Her June 16-22 trip via Operation Smile was spearheaded by the nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH) which was founded 25 years ago to deliver health care to the underserved in Haiti. 

PIH and the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population are in the midst of opening the 300-bed Hôpital Universitaire Mirebalais (HUM). Located 30 miles north of the capital of Port-au-Prince, this teaching hospital and national referral center was constructed at the government’s request to decentralize health care and medical education. Dr. Ott and her colleagues walked from their housing down a muddy road to get to HUM, the only hub of major activity in this rural area.


During her weeklong experience, Dr. Ott was the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse who, along with an OR nurse, mentored Haitian colleagues for several days in the new surgical suite. She had access to a Creole interpreter for conversations with nurse Renandine Quiteau, who also spoke a good deal of English. For the following two days, Dr. Ott taught classes through an interpreter to about 15-20 nurses on subjects such as chest injuries, chest tubes, shock, dysrhythmias and related nursing care while using competencies from the American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses. She correctly anticipated that the nurses would need critical thinking and assessment skills and integrated that content into her classes.

“They are anxious to learn and improve their standards,” says Dr. Ott of her Haitian nurse colleagues who seemed pleased with the cooperative agreement among the groups involved. Dr. Ott hopes to return to Haiti to continue her mentor-educator role there.

Nurses sharing knowledge through Partners in Health and Operation Smile.
This dirt road led Dr. Ott to her daily interactions with Haitian colleagues at the new Hôpital Universitaire Mirebalais.