KANSAS CITY, KAN. Nurses from a former Soviet republic are studying management skills at the Kansas University Medical Center.
Baktygul Shejshenalieva recognized much of the apparatus and scenery at the Kansas University Medical Center's burn center.
It was not unlike the burn unit where she works as a nurse in Kyrgyzstan, an independent country in central Asia in the far eastern reaches of the former Soviet Union.
She asked Wednesday, through an interpreter, what device was used for a little boy's skin grafts. Peg Valverde, a nurse who has worked in the burn center for 21 years, explained, through the interpreter, that they used a Padgett device, developed by a former plastic surgeon at the KU teaching hospital.
Shejshenalieva and Tamara Saktanova, the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Health's chief of nursing, then watched quietly as a physical therapist encouraged a screaming, terrified 3-year-old boy to use his scalded little legs to walk in a shallow stainless steel pool of cool water.
Some of the techniques were similar, some different from those used at hospitals in Kyrgyzstan. But that wasn't important to the ten Russian-speaking nurses from Kyrgyzstan who visited the KUMC burn center Wednesday.
Rather, they have been attending classes and observing various units at the teaching hospital since late May to learn management skills. They supervise nursing staffs in hospitals that have from about 350 to 850 beds.
The two-month program includes courses in management, financial management, human resource management, conflict resolution, communication, documentation and record keeping.
These are all vital and much-needed skills in Kyrgyzstan, where Olga Kaplenko, a nurse there, said that nurses often must spend vital time finding linens, medications and other supplies, rather than working with their patients.
Nurses in Kyrgyzstan earn as little as $3.50 a month, said Carmen Jacobs, senior coordinator for continuing nursing education at KUMC.
"This is a pioneering attempt to elevate nursing from a subservient status to a professional status, to raise it to a collaborative partnership with physicians," said David Martin, a clinical assistant professor at the KUMC School of Nursing.
The visit is part of an exchange program begun with a $250,000 grant from the U.S. State Department, which supports a partnership between KUMC and the Institutes of Oncology and Pediatrics, OB/GYN in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan's capital.
As part of the training program the 10 Kyrgyzstan nurses will visit various departments at the KU medical center. They will also take trips to Shawnee Mission Medical Center, a private hospital; to the government-run Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and to the Wyandotte County Health Department in Kansas City, Kan., to observe how an out-patient clinic works.
"We didn't want it to appear that we were showing off," Jacobs said. "There may be parts of this information that are useful and parts that are not. They have the opportunity to take pieces of this information."
KUMC has also been working with Heart to Heart, an Olathe charity, to airlift medical supplies and equipment to Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous, Kansas-sized country of about 4.5 million people that borders China. A shipment of 35 tons of supplies will be flown there July 21.