Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Myanmar nurses face heavy workload

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Fulbright Scholar Weihua Zhang (center) with nursing students in Myanmar

In Myanmar, officials have pledged to train and hire up to 3,600 nurses—twice the number as last year—to help address the country’s critical nursing shortage.

Weihua Zhang PhD RN, associate clinical professor of nursing at Emory, understands the strains the shortage is placing on nurses in Myanmar, where she was a Fulbright Scholar this spring.

“Because of the shortage, nurses have taken on multiple responsi-bilities under a heavy workload,” says Zhang, who taught at the University of Nursing, Yangon. “For example, Yangon General Hospital has 2,000 beds. However, there are about 2,500 patients who need to be cared for as inpatients. You could see patients in the hallway.”

The University of Nursing, Yangon is one of three universities that offer a four-year BSN program. It also offers a master’s degree program and certificate programs in mental health, pediatrics, critical care, and orthopedics. Zhang taught health assessment to BSN and MSN students and critical care for students seeking certification in that specialty.

When students in the critical care program presented their work before a group of physicians, nurses, and university faculty, it sparked “many conversations on patient safety, quality assurance, and policy change,” says Zhang. “The students’ presentations generated the need for adding a cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program to the curriculum. I worked on curriculum changes with the faculty and provided resources on setting up the first cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program by working with the interdisciplinary team in Yangon.”

Zhang also played a role in helping medical, nursing, and ministry of health leaders move toward establishing the first government-supported hospice care in Myanmar. She shared her experience in interprofessional training with health care providers from different universities and presented on palliative and hospice care at a World Health Organization workshop at the university.

Before returning to the states, Zhang lectured and took part in scholarly exchanges in Thailand. She was one of five U.S. Fulbright Scholars in the region.

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