Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

GLOBAL AND PLANETARY HEALTH: Teaching as If the FUTURE MATTERS

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

GLOBAL AND PLANETARY HEALTH: Teaching as If the FUTURE MATTERS

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

If nursing, along with other health professions, is to be able to critique national and international health policy and be equipped to address the global and planetary dimensions of health, the conceptual horizons of our educational and research enterprises will need to be expanded. Not only are nursing curricula needed that address such concepts as "health for all" and "environmental sustainability," but new pedagogies are required that engage students deeply and call them to socially and globally responsible ways-of-being. This article describes teaching and learning in a course that situates health in a global and environmental context and calls forth new personal and professional meanings.

NURSING EDUCATION PERSPECTIVES MAY / JUNE 2005

FIVE YEARS INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM, IT IS TIME TO TAKE STOCK OF THE WORLD SITUATION AND TO ASK WHETHER THE HUMAN RACE AS A WHOLE IS MAKING PROGRESS OR WHETHER WE ARE SIMPLY HASTENING OUR DEMISE. Given the stark, disturbing nature of such thoughts, some might say that thinking about this question is unhelpful, as it is may lead to pessimistic conclusions. Such negativism, it is argued, does little but paralyze those individuals courageous enough to consider it.

YET, CAN WE AS CITIZENS AFFORD TO AVOID THIS QUESTION? Indeed, can the nursing profession risk the consequences of ignoring it? To what extent should we encourage nursing students, as the next generation of nurses, to confront evident global dangers? Are there ways of teaching that encourage students to consider the ominous global predicament authentically and resolutely, in a way that supports them and points beyond paralysis and despair to personal meaning and new professional directions?

If nursing, along with other health professions, is to be able to critique national and international health policies and be equipped to address the global and planetary dimensions of health, the educational and research enterprise will need ro be redirected beyond consideration of the immediate health benefits for the richest nations. Global health disparities and the need to sustain the biosphere (1-3) must also be addressed.

Whether nurses over the next decade accept this challenge depends on the extent to which current nursing curricula instill the importance of thinking about - and a sense of urgency to address - such issues as health for all, global justice, technology and its limits, and environmental sustainability. In addition, such redirection depends on the degree to which nurses as individuals take up the challenge to live in a way that is globally responsible and ethical. Promoting such commitment necessitates pedagogies that engage students in a quest for meaning (4-6).

Our teaching practices must thus move beyond epistemological issues (questions of knowing) to address ontological questions that speak to our understanding of reality, meaning, and being (7). This article outlines our approach to teaching a course entitled Nursing in the Global Context.

The course is based on five main premises:

1. Health cannot be understood apart from the environment that sustains it and the social and political structures that act to either promote or undermine it.

2. International trade and travel, instantaneous electronic communication, and competing global concerns mean that poverty, disease, war, and environmental degradation know no national boundaries.

3. Choices made now will affect generations to come. Thus, ethical decision-making requires responding to present needs in a way that does not diminish quality of life for future generations.

4. Learning must engage not only the mind, but also the heart and soul if students are to care passionately about the future.

5. A useful, fecund nursing science for the future will increasingly grapple with the meaning of health in a global context.

With these assumptions - and such focal themes as global justice, health for all, environmental sustainability, futures thinking, responsible citizenship, and the expansion of nursing theory - teaching this course is an ambitious undertaking. …

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