Nursing in Paradise

barbara mafnas

An eight-hour flight west of Honolulu lies the tropical island of Guam – home to swaying palm trees, stunning sunsets and RN-BSN to MSN student Barbara Mafnas, RN, LCCE, CLC, IBCLC.

Barbara, an OB nurse and childbirth instructor, works at a freestanding birthing center, Sagua Managu (which literally translates to “birth by waters”). She also teaches in the medical assisting program at Guam Community College.

She graduated from an ADN program in Michigan in 1992 and then arrived in Guam in 1993 with her husband, who was active-duty Air Force and originally hailed from the island. She began her nursing career in a multi-discipline clinic until, as she said, “OB found my heart.”

Today, Mafnas is the island’s only certified Lamaze instructor. She’s also a certified lactation consultant and recently earned certification as a doula. In addition, she serves on Guam’s breastfeeding committee, where she is helping draft a bill to protect breastfeeding in the U.S. territory.

In all that she does, her biggest motivation is empowerment.

“I want to see these moms empowered by their birthing experience, and by breastfeeding and giving their children the best source of nutrition to get life started,” she said. “I also feel like I’m empowered by my clients because I feel like I have something to offer them. As long as I have something to offer them, I’m going to learn more and give them all I’ve got."

Guam’s geographic location – while offering breathtaking beauty – makes continuing education in nursing difficult.

Mafnas faces significant hurdles in connecting with peers because of her sheer distance from the U.S. mainland. “I do a lot of my reading online, and I go to the occasional conference, but for me to leave the island costs about $1,700–$2,000. That’s the airfare alone – I still have to pay for conference fees and hotels.”

Mafnas received a grant to complete her BSN and pursue an MSN, and the online programs at Chamberlain proved to be a perfect match for her needs.

“I started out at another school, but moved to Chamberlain because of the customer service aspect,” she explained. “Everyone I have talked to, whether it was about scheduling or ordering a book or getting online, has given phenomenal customer service. That’s the reason I’m here.”

Even though Guam is half a day ahead of the U.S. mainland and on the other side of the International Date Line, it's the perfect fit, says Mafnas.

“I can go to school whenever it fits my needs," she said. "If I get up in the middle of the night or get up early and I’m inspired, I can go to my classroom and start typing. It really doesn’t feel like work. I’ve been enjoying it tremendously.”

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