By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
February 9, 2012 - Professional international experiences and relationships can enrich nurses’ careers and lives, but successfully traveling abroad requires advance planning, something the Faculty Preparation for Global Experiences Toolkit aims to make easier for nurses.
Virginia W. Adams, Ph.D., RN, called the Faculty Preparation for Global Experiences Toolkit a roadmap for nurses traveling abroad professionally.
“We wanted everyone to be on the same footing when they started,” said Virginia W. Adams, Ph.D., RN, a consultant for global and diversity initiatives for the National League for Nursing in New York. “It’s a roadmap. If you have never taken students anyplace, you should feel comfortable after you go through the toolkit.”
Adams said traveling abroad has become more common for nursing faculty, with at least 200 U.S. schools and colleges of nursing formally working with other countries. The U.S. faculty members may take students or may consult or conduct research with researchers overseas.
The International Nursing Education, Services, and Accreditation (INESA) joint taskforce of the National League for Nursing and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission developed the toolkit and released it online with a free download.
Shannon E. Perry, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, professor emeritus at San Francisco State University, said she came up with the idea for a toolkit after realizing how many nurses in their naiveté did not enjoy good experiences abroad due to poor planning.
“We’re hoping this toolkit would help them,” said Perry, who has taken students to Ghana, Italy, Thailand, China and other places on multiple occasions. “This will give some ideas where to look, how to set up a course or consult.”
Adams said INESA found that faculty new to traveling abroad had little understanding of what they needed to do and how they needed to access resources as they were traveling. She recommended nurses begin by learning as much as possible about the host country and its culture and scope of practice. Before leaving, the faculty must set objectives for the trip, especially when taking students, and have a plan and emergency contacts in place. Once overseas, Adams encourages nurses and students to spend a few days with a guide getting a sense of place.
Adey Nyamathi, ANP, Ph.D., FAAN, called the Faculty Preparation for Global Experiences Toolkit extremely valuable.
Adey Nyamathi, ANP, Ph.D., FAAN, associate dean of international research and scholarly activities at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Nursing, called pre-trip preparation key to a successful student experience. UCLA students look up diseases common in those regions where they are traveling and learn about the country’s nursing scope of practice.
“The toolkit will be extremely valuable, because everyone does their own thing,” said Nyamathi, who has traveled to China, India and the Middle East. She expects students heading overseas will find the published manual a valuable tool.
“The new NLN toolkit will be very helpful particularly for faculty with little or no experience traveling to other countries,” agreed Mary T. Quinn Griffin, Ph.D, RN, associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She has traveled to China with students to collaborate with Chinese faculty and to present at a conference.
“In addition, it will be a valuable resource for all faculty as a good checklist when planning international trips,” Quinn Griffin said.
Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT, an associate professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, agreed that having the toolkit will be helpful to nurses new to international nursing, including those aspiring to be travel nurses. She found out what was needed on her own.
Wilson has collaborated with a nursing school in Botswana and met with members of the Nurses Association of Botswana and then launched a campaign to bolster the image of nursing in that country. She bought “I am proud to be a nurse” pins for every nurse in the country and then sold them in the United States to raise funds for the campaign.
“Nursing is nursing, no matter where you are in the world,” Wilson said. “Even though we have different standards and different standards of education, nurses are a certain kind of person, and we’re drawn to each other.”
Ultimately, Adams said, INESA aims to develop more standardized nursing education around the world. But she acknowledges that will take some time. Meanwhile, she said that INESA members believe nursing students should have the opportunity to experience health care delivery in other places.
“If nursing students think that health care is what’s delivered at Vanderbilt or in San Francisco, California, they don’t know what health care is, because at those places, it is some of the best care in the world,” Perry said. “It’s a very limited view. There are other ways of doing things, and the U.S. way is not necessarily the best way.”
Perry said her students have kept journals and almost always said they would never look at nursing the same way again.
“There are no referrals,” Nyamathi added. “You work with what you have. … You have to do things yourself. That’s what [the students] enjoy, getting their hands into everything.”
Adams adds that such international experiences also improve students’ understanding of and ability to work well with the diverse populations they will care for in this country.
“It helps them become more resourceful and more respectful of other people and what they bring to the table,” Adams said. “It is heartening to take students who are open to different experiences.”
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