Why Is Vanderbilt Training Nurse Anesthetists In Kenya?

Vanderbilt Anesthesiologists Mark Newton, M.D., far left, and Kelly McQueen, M.D., in white coat, celebrate with a graduating class of Kenyan Registered Nurse Anesthetists at Kijabe Hospital. Image Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt Anesthesiologists Mark Newton, M.D., far left, and Kelly McQueen, M.D., in white coat, celebrate with a graduating class of Kenyan Registered Nurse Anesthetists at Kijabe Hospital. Image Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Some of Vanderbilt’s nursing students don’t learn on campus or even in Nashville. The Medical Center is getting ready to more than double the size of a program based in rural Kenya, with hopes of making surgery safer in sub-Saharan Africa.

Having an operation can be a dangerous proposition in much of Kenya. For every thirteen surgeons, there’s only one person who knows how to safely sedate a patient. So all too often, Dr. Matthew McEvoy says hospitals just make do.

 “There can be a nurse who’s delivering the anesthesia with very little training trying to perform it under sedation that can be inadequate and pain control that’s inadequate.”

That’s where Vanderbilt comes in. Since the teaching hospital runs an institute on global health, it only seemed right to take part in improving the odds for African surgical patients. To that end, Vandy currently admits eight Kenyan nursing students a year into a program at the Kijabe Hospital.

McEvoy says a Vanderbilt doctor stationed there takes them through a nurse anesthetist training comparable to what’s offered here in Nashville, albeit with less access to technology. A new grant from GE will double the number of students at that facility, plus pay for expanding to two other rural medical outposts. McEvoy hopes to also train a few Kenyan nationals to become faculty.

The Kenyan hospital is also used as a residency site for Vanderbilt doctors.

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