Nursing Goes Global

Article excerpt

Florence Nightingale, the mother of nursing, left home to care for the sick and wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. Caring for others beyond home is a trend that lives on. Today's nurses are serving the needs of our global community and graduate nursing programs are up to the challenge as they internationalize curricula.


This article is the fourth in an occasional feature series on internationalizing graduate programs. The first article was "Educating for Global Business" on the internationalization of M.B.A. programs in the September/October 2007 issue, the second was "Making a World of Difference" on the internationalization of graduate social work programs in the March/ April 2008 issue and the third was "Planning Tomorrow's Urban World" in the July/ August 2008 issue.

AFTER EYE-OPENING DAYS assisting local community health care workers and midwives working for a clinic in rural Guatemala, students from the University of Washington School of Nursing and the local health care workers sat down together to share reflections, presentations, and thoughts on medical care. Translators bridged the gap between the Americans' English and Spanish, and the Mayan midwives' Spanish and native Kaqchikel, using skits and dramatization to bring the words to life.

During the session, the students shared their insights on the need to wear gloves to decrease infection and maternal mortality rates. At the end of their meeting, the midwives shared their thoughts - advising the students to invoke the spirits to ensure each mother had a successful birth.

The stark contrast in health care concerns won't easily be forgotten by graduate student Julie Potsma. "We were all about germ theory, trying to impose our theories on them. They're not even coming from that place." For nursing faculty and students helping health care workers abroad, it's a fine line to ensure that U.S. students "are being a complement to them, and not ignoring their value system," Potsma says.

It's an important lesson for graduate nursing students to learn as the world becomes a smaller place. Not only are students taking advantage of opportunities to travel abroad, but as the U.S. population becomes more diverse, immigrants bring their own values and cultures and beliefs with them.

"Today's young people know so much more about the world than we did," says Martha Hill, dean ofthe Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. As borders have fallen, students travel more, and experience instantaneous communication through television and the Internet. "We are becoming much more alike than different."

They are also much more aware of disasters and medical crises-information about tsunamis, earthquakes, and even bird flu is beamed around the world as soon as a disaster strikes or an outbreak occurs.

Global Health Affects Domestic Care

The health care community is now seeing "how world health also affects the patients we serve domestically," says Carmen Portillo, vice chair in the Department of Community Health Systems at the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing.

In response, many universities are offering more international aspects to their nursing school graduate programs. Opportunities for international clinical experience and research are on the rise, joint master's degrees in nursing and public health are being offered, and some schools are incorporating courses with an international focus into their curriculum. Perhaps most popular for students who afford to take time away are education abroad possibilities. For those leaving the United States and heading particularly to less developed countries, cultivating cultural sensitivity should is vital.

At the University of Washington School of Nursing in Seattle, a program that wins rave reviews is the annual trip to San Lucas Tollman, Guatemala, led by Catherine Carr, associate professor in family and child nursing and a certified midwife. …