External Examiners: International Collaboration in Nursing Education

Article excerpt

Abstract: With the advent of mass communication, air travel, and most recently the World Wide Web, the need for global considerations in nursing and nursing education has emerged as a strong force. Nurses who serve as external examiners in international sites are participating in international collaboration in nursing education. The external examiner is defined as a visiting assessor of high academic standing with objectivity and integrity, who ensures that examination procedures are conducted according to regulations governing the academic degree. A long-standing British tradition in higher education, external examiners share in the intellectual effort of evaluating student courses and assessment strategies. The external examining experience consists of six steps: (1) appointment; (2) contract; (3) review of curriculum and examination materials; (4) on-site visit; (5) consolidating external and internal assessments; and (6) preliminary and final reports. The process is a complex one requiring the external examiner to function in multifaceted and complex roles. The authors, external examiners in Botswana, southern Africa, over a five-year period ending in 1997, present basic information about the process, the experience, and potential sources of difficulty when fulfilling the role.

Key Words: International Collaboration, Nursing Education, External Examiners

Fitzpatrick (1999) observed "There is value in face-toface interactions with colleagues in nursing that will never be replaced by technology, no matter how sophisticated the tools. As nurses we thrive on personal connections..."( p.3). Moreover, according to Rosenkoetter (1997), increasingly nurses in the United States are being asked to assist their colleagues in other countries with the multifaceted tasks of curriculum development, strategic planning for health manpower development and health care interventions

Since travel by air has made the world a much smaller place and the advent of the computer and the worldwide web have connected even remote corners of the planet, a global rather than a national consideration of nursing education and health care delivery will grow in importance. Additionally, current literature reveals that problems in both nursing education and health care delivery are remarkably similar worldwide. Therefore, international collaboration, rather than competition, will define issues related to the education of nurses and the welfare of clients. Collaboration is defined here as nurse educators working together in a joint effort leading to a mutually beneficial professional association. Establishing and maintaining such collaborative relationships with international colleagues is one way of seeking solutions to many of the common problems shared in nursing education. In most southern African countries, there is only one university; one of the most challenging tasks is to provide quality education programs to prepare professional nurses to practice in an expanding and complex world. Consequently, there is a critical need to insure a level of competency and adequacy in teaching and in the granting of degrees (Burgess, 1989). A unique way American nurses can participate in collaborating with nursing education programs and nurse educators in southern African countries is in the role of external examiner. The concept of collaboration is found in both the role and functions of an external examiner. Basically, external examining is a system of quality assurance in nursing education that enjoys a long-standing tradition in the British higher education system. Universities in Africa using this British-based system include those in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Lesotho. The notion of an external examiner is relatively unfamiliar to many American educators, especially nurse educators. Walter, Sivanesaratnam, and Hamilton (1995) describe the external examiner as "a visiting assessor of high academic standing and possessed of integrity and objectivity. …


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