With a decentralized health care system and inequitable geographic distribution of healthcare workers, online education for further specialization has never been more important than it is today. The highest density of healthcare workers continues to dominate in Lima and along the coast, and the areas of Piura, Lambayeque, and Loreto with the lowest density of healthcare professionals.
To counteract this, the SERMUS plan was put into effect. Its goal of distributing health workers to more remote areas has been a mild success. The Country Coordination and Facilitation (CCF) in Peru has moved on from stages 1 to 3 (HRH coordination, HRH situation analysis, and HRH planning and is currently moving into stages 4, mobilization of resources for HRH interventions, and stage 5, implementation and monitoring of the HRH plan.
Their goals are to help improve communication and coordination amongst the different health care systems of MINSA, EsSalud, FFAA, and the private sector to provide a more diverse and robust healthcare system for Peru.
For long-term effectiveness, however, more resources and training need to be available to nurses and prospective nurses working in rural areas. Online nursing programs offer this training and allow for high-quality education with minimal resources.
What Online Nursing Programs Need to be Successfully Adopted by Rural Nurses-in-Training
There are several effective online nursing programs today that can be modelled for the Peruvian healthcare industry. America, for example, has several exemplary online nursing programs to look towards, both for the quality of their education and for their accessibility features.
These will need to be adopted in several languages to meet the demands of Peruvians. Spanish, of course, will be the focus for online nursing programs, but to provide exceptional care to rural communities’ programs in Quechua and Aymara must also be available as an option for students, or a bi or tri-lingual approach.
These will allow locals to learn and advance their skills so that they can then provide an even better level of care to their communities. Focusing all learning opportunities solely on Spanish only works to alienate those, especially in more rural areas in Peru.
By lifting up local communities using their own mother tongue, we can encourage higher quality care and work to develop rural communities as a whole.
Following the American Online Nursing Model for Training
Regardless of which language the program is designed in, online nursing programs should adopt the American model, which offers these key benefits:
1. Designed for Working Professionals
The best American online nursing programs are designed for working nurses. What this typically means is that these online nursing programs are compatible with the working structure of real nurses – both those who work set hours and those who work on shifts.
2. No Mandatory Log-In Times
One of the ways that online nursing programs in the United States excel at this is by offering their course with no mandatory log-in times. This typically means pre-recorded lectures and other intuitive digital tools so that the nurse working Monday to Saturday.
3. Focused Learning Structures
By focusing on just one course at a time, nurses in America can slowly work towards their qualification without their career suffering. This similarly should be adopted for those in Peru, though the healthcare industry may also need to provide a more balanced set of hour requirements to encourage regular training amongst their staff.
4. Career and Student Coaching
Student success coaching is a must. More than just having professors and experts available if students have a question, coaches are necessary to provide direction and support for their careers. This extra resource allows students to use their education for the betterment of their career.
Student success coaches can also work to highlight areas in Peru that require more medical staff. Rather than pressuring students to move, they will work to highlight the issues and allow students to make their own choices.
5. Multiple Pathways Through Bridged Courses
There should be online nursing programs that allow for bridges to be made. For example, in the American model, there are MSN degrees that can be obtained even without a BSN. That doesn’t mean there are APRN nurses in the United States that do not have a BSN, but rather than ADN-RNs have worked to earn their BSN and MSN in the same stretch.
By offering multiple pathways to advanced nursing qualifications, we can provide ample opportunity for health care workers.
Open Online Courses for Continuing Education
Continuing education is a must to create and maintain a strong, skilled nursing workforce. The training necessary here, however, should not be solely focused on hard skills. There is evidence that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and the like can help round out and improve the soft skills of nurses at all levels.
These courses are often created and run by prominent universities around the world, allowing students to hear from professors and experts in areas beyond science.
6. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Their Potential as a Training Tool
These courses are available online and either free or for a low cost. Though they are not certified to cover medical training like online nursing programs, they can prove instrumental in many of the softer areas of nursing.
From bedside manner to management, nursing is so much more than just having the technical skills. These MOOCs are effective and accessible ways to improve nurses across Peru.
7. The Fallbacks of Massive Open Online Courses
The issue today is the lack of options available in Spanish. Usually, the courses available are offered only in English. By professionally translating these courses or encouraging Peruvian and other South American academic institutions to create their own online course designed to help improve the hospitality, management, etc. skills amongst nurses and other health workers.
Other suggestions for the betterment of the community as a whole is to create and advertise programs on healthy eating, wellness, and mental health that are free for the public to learn from on their own time, and thus improve the quality of health throughout the country.
Advancing Specialties with Online Nursing Programs
Improving the number of registered nurses is not enough. Peru needs a healthy population of advanced nurses with a variety of specialties that are ideal in hospitals, clinics, and elsewhere. Again, online education is essential, but so too is offering more opportunities for nurses to explore their interests and support to help them achieve their graduate degrees.
Nursing Specialties for MSN-Holding Nurses
There are four main nursing specialties.
8. Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioners tend to focus on a demographic, often by age or sex. The most popular option is the Family Nurse Practitioner, as they are the most rounded of the options and often come with the highest level of responsibility and privileges. There are options to work with the senior population, with children, with women or men, and so on.
9. Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical nurse specialists don’t focus so much on a demographic, but rather a field of medicine. As such their roles often include administrative, research, or are program oriented. A nurse working in the oncology department will often be a Clinical Nurse Specialist who is qualified in this field.
They also tend to work in research institutions, for example, in vaccine development or in treatment research.
10. Nurse Midwifery
Nurse midwives are a very important role in helping support families in rural areas who cannot make it to the hospital or who are too far to benefit from regular health care options.
The nurse midwife will make house calls, though in the future their work is expected to become more personalized and robust thanks to telehealth and the potential of 5G to connect rural communities with a high-speed connection.
Regular monitoring is essential for the health of the baby and the mother, and more nurse midwives will work to improve pregnancy outlook beyond Lima and the coast.
11. Nurse Anesthetist
Another essential role is the nurse anesthetist. They work alongside doctors to provide anesthesia for a variety of situations. To ensure that rural areas get quality care, at least one anesthetist should be available for surgeries and emergency care.
Providing Incentives to Fill in APRN Nursing Shortages in Specific Fields
Though students should always have the option, there are easy ways to encourage more qualified nurses to specialize in an area that is currently understaffed. Offer discounts, scholarships, or work opportunities for potential nurses so that the healthcare system can stay regulated, rather than focusing on one type of APRN when another type is lacking.
Incentives to Encourage More Nurses to Work in Rural Areas
The next difficulty then lies not in further training, but in keeping nurses working at their station, rather than searching for higher paid work in Lima or along the coast.
Adopting a Work/Study Friendly Model
It is not easy to work and study on top of all other responsibilities. Workplaces must be adapted to encourage studying by offering shorter work weeks or paid study periods during the week to keep everyone on schedule. This is probably the most important component to successfully training more advanced level nurses.
Without that support, many nurses will continue to work without being interested in taking on an MSN or further qualification. By making it feasible to work well, study well, and live well, we can encourage consistent, healthy growth.
Advertise Study Opportunities Amongst Rural Communities
Advertise study and training opportunities to local communities. The best nurse is one who knows their community and how to care for them. By training communities, we can give the tools necessary to improve their own health. By focusing on locals as well, there is less of a risk of relocation to Lima and other big cities, further boosting the state of healthcare in the area.
A great place to start is in schools, especially if a specific school-to-nursing program is developed to encourage more young people into the profession.
Sponsorship for Further Specialization
To fill shortages, the easiest method is to provide sponsorship opportunities. With sponsorships, there are a variety of conditions you can place, for example, that the nurse in question must work for so many years at a rural clinic before having the freedom to move to the city.
Sponsorship doesn’t have to cover all of their tuition, either, though work should be done to lower the cost of healthcare degrees, especially in areas where there are shortages. This increases the accessibility of healthcare degrees, even amongst rural communities.
Career and Study Support for Health and Wellbeing
Health care jobs like nurses frequently take a toll on mental health and wellbeing, especially with large work weeks. By providing more support, from lunch plans to mental health resources, we can keep our nurses well and strong, so that they can continue to work and earn further qualifications at the same time.
Without this support, there is a risk of burnout, which consistently lowers work ethic, quality, and can ruin study habits entirely.
Encourage APRN-Led Clinics
APRN-FNPs can and often do open up their own clinics in the United States of America. They are given prescription privileges and offset the massive shortage of general physicians. By enabling APRNs to run their own clinics, and by providing business support, we can encourage more options for rural communities.
Working with Local Communities to Build a Stronger Health System
Continuing the HRH plan to expand the healthcare system further into rural communities is essential. Enabling ample opportunity through online nursing programs not only furthers these goals, but it also works to provide key work and training to those outside of Peru’s main economic hubs.
By allowing for rural training using digital structures, nurses not only gain the essential skills and knowledge, but they learn the cultural heart of their communities. By training local nurses who will then serve their own communities, we can encourage at-source growth and building trusting relationships between the public and their healthcare.