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NLN’s Toolkit Prepares Nurse Educators for Work Abroad

October 2012

The increasing demand for nurses is not a phenomenon unique to the United States. Hospitals, clinics and communities worldwide have a growing need for well-qualified nursing professionals. Educating the next generation of nurses to address this need requires educators who are prepared to work internationally, whether it’s traveling with students abroad or conducting research with faculty members across the globe.

The Faculty Preparation for Global Experiences Toolkit©, created by the National League for Nursing (NLN), is intended to provide educators with the skills necessary to work beyond U.S. borders and cultures. “As a part of our mission to continue excellence in education for faculty members, we became interested in basic preparation for educators as they traveled abroad,” said Virginia Adams, Ph.D., RN, and consultant for Global and Diversity Initiatives for the NLN. “We assembled a task force called International Nursing Education, Services and Accreditation (INESA) to examine what faculty members are doing across the globe, and what we found was stunning.”

According to Adams, at least 200 U.S. nursing schools routinely send faculty – and sometimes students – overseas. “As traveling abroad has become more common for nurse educators, the need for adequate basic preparation has also increased,” she added. Once faculty members arrive in a new country, they are often challenged with immediate assignments while becoming familiar with cultural customs. This can result in unintentional miscommunications, posing potential threats to relationships rather than fostering them.

These unexpected cultural dynamics often lead traveling educators to report negative experiences, making them less enthusiastic about traveling again. But these types of experiences can often be avoided with more comprehensive planning – a key focal point of the toolkit. According to Adams, faculty and students have more positive outcomes when global encounters are adequately planned. “When traveling outside of the U.S., there are basic things nurses need to know to get around,” she added. “When working with other nurses and researchers from various cultures, this becomes a bigger challenge.”

The development of the NLN toolkit began by asking three questions of faculty members with international experience:

  • What do you need before you travel?
  • What do you do once you get there?
  • What do you need to know once you return?

The materials in the toolkit are broken down into five sections and focus on topics such as host-country selection, visas and immunizations, embracing new cultures and surroundings, faculty/student collaboration, the special role of educators abroad and evaluation. Adams recommends the toolkit for all nursing faculty who decide to travel, whether they are going on a consult visit, partnering with international researchers, taking students abroad or simply observing what is happening in healthcare systems across the globe.

“The main goal of the toolkit is to prepare faculty for an international experience – especially when introducing students to a new culture – but it also aims to help travelers have a more enriching experience as they engage in healthcare systems that are different from their own,” said Adams. “We also want to open the doors for students in other countries to benefit from these visits and subsequently develop stronger global relationships and partnerships.”

To access the toolkit, visit www.nln.org.

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