When doctorate of nursing practice student Jennifer Quigley realized she would be the first Belmont recipient of the Frist Global Health Fellowship, she said she was eager to use her passion for global health to implement a plan for teaching health care providers in Cap-Haitien, Haiti a modern method of natural family planning. Her trip was born of a partnership between Belmont’s College of Health Sciences and Nursing and the organization Hope Through Healing Hands, which was founded by Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D.
Although the goal of the trip was to assist the Haitian people, Quigley was quick to say the trip was life-changing for her, as well. “I learned so much more from the Haitian people than they learned from me. I have never seen a more joyous people, full of life and love, and each was eager to show me love. Though they did not have much, I never went hungry, and I always had water. They joyfully give, even if they have so little to start with,” she said. “I also had the opportunity to deliver a baby, with only one other nurse, no drugs and not sterile equipment — only a clean room and the two of us. It was an experience I will hold with me for the rest of my life.”
Quigley’s fellowship focused on educating medical practitioners about the Standard Days Method (SDM), developed by Georgetown University in Washington D.C., which uses knowledge and awareness of the fertility cycle to allow women and couples to time and space pregnancies and has been tested to be 95 percent accurate when used correctly. Quigley spent her summer training the health care providers in the knowledge and skills to not only understand the method, but also the tools to instruct, guide and counsel patients in this method to plan pregnancies.
The Hope Through Healing Hands team knows the far-reaching impact that this kind of sustainable program can have on developing countries like Haiti. Women who have access to family planning education and resources are less likely to die in child birth, have healthier children and space their children farther apart, which allows for a more stable family structure. For a couple to be able to communicate and decide what size family is appropriate for them is an important piece in decreasing disparities in the developing countries. “This can lead to improving the economic status of entire communities. The capacity is truly incredible, which is why we’re so excited about seeing the results of Jennifer’s study,” said Executive Director of Hope Through Healing Hands Jenny Dyer.
Quigley had originally planned to recruit and teach 31 providers, but after completing the course with those original providers and finding an overwhelming positive response, she continued to provide training to those she could while she was there. By the end of her trip, she had completed the course for close to 200 physicians, nurses and community health workers throughout the northern part of the country. Many stated the visual tool and simple rules of the method make it desirable for their population, of which almost 50 percent are unable to read or write. Preliminary results show much improvement in the knowledge of fertility, family planning and how to effectively space pregnancies. Formal data analysis is still in progress and should be completed in report form by the middle of September.
Quigley says her Catholic background makes up a lot of the driving force behind her global health outreach and mission work. “My Christian faith tells me that my life is not about me; it is about sharing my gifts that were given to me by God with others, so that they may have more opportunities to do the same,” she said. “Increasing education and awareness for modern methods of natural family planning is something written on my heart that I have a calling to share. I use those engrained nursing skills along with my Christian faith as a foundation to decrease disparities around the globe.”
Quigley was recently featured in an article in the Diocese of Nashville, where she speaks on how she was able to appeal to Catholic, Protestant and non-religious audiences and clinics because of the way she approaches the issue. The main thing she wanted to convey is that natural family planning can be a positive alternative for women and their husbands to figure out how many children they want and can afford to care for.
Quigley said she is thankful for the Christian environment that Belmont provides to guide and direct her individual passion. “The faculty and Dean Taylor at the Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing have seen my passion for nursing, global health and natural family planning and provided me the knowledge, direction and opportunities to grow my passion into a doctorate level research project that will open the door to so many more wonderful opportunities,” she said.
After graduating, Quigley hopes to use this project as groundwork to further her career in the research of natural family planning in a global health setting, in order to decrease or eliminate maternal and infant disparities related to unhealthy timing and spacing of pregnancies across the world.
Read more about Quigley’s trip on her blog.