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Making Global Connections in Nursing to Advance Public Health Worldwide

Getting Real: Nursing Today
July 9, 2018
Making Global Connections in Nursing to Advance Public Health Worldwide

As an assistant professor at the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON) and recipient of a 2017-18 Fulbright Global Scholar Award, Lori A. Spies, PhD, RN, exemplifies how a career in nursing can create additional opportunities to change the world at the global scale. Dr. Spies is currently collaborating with healthcare providers in India, Vietnam, and Zambia to research the best education practices in combating noncommunicable diseases, and she recently shared with us the triumphs and challenges of global nursing.

NN: Who (or what) inspired you to pursue a career in nursing?

Lori: Looking back, I am grateful for so many things that led me to become a nurse.  My mother was an active community volunteer, and growing up, I was often with her as she volunteered. Her efforts to improve the world made a lasting impression on me.

It wasn’t until my early 30s when I delved into new career options that I found the path to nursing. Being a nurse has been such a great fit for me – I have no idea why it took me so long to figure that out.

NN: Can you tell us about your collaboration with nurses and healthcare providers abroad?

Lori: Making a difference in the world in real and tangible ways resonates with me, and traveling while working internationally has long had an appeal. Being able to partner with people, specifically nurses, is the ideal way to achieve relevant and sustainable improvements in healthcare and healthcare infrastructure. The current global focus at Baylor University and LHSON has provided me and a cohort of colleagues with unprecedented support to engage in global efforts. I have been afforded extraordinary opportunities to work with nurse leaders, researchers and teachers in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Uganda, and Zambia.

It is fascinating to work with local nurse leaders to provide workshops to build skill and encourage nursing research and leadership. I have also had the opportunity to develop and teach international clinical study abroad courses for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) students in Ethiopia, and assisted in the development of a complementary and traditional Chinese medicine study abroad trip to Hong Kong. Through my work at Baylor University and my studies as a PhD student, I became convinced that building capacity in nursing students, nurses, and other healthcare providers is an ideal way to meaningfully and sustainably improve population health.

NN: What are some takeaways you gained from this experience?

Lori: Working with nurses in other countries has been a fascinating window into the healthcare system and the culture of health and illness. Nurses all over the world are doing extraordinary things often in environments of adversity. It has been evident that while contexts and cultures change, nurses everywhere provide lifesaving care for people at their most vulnerable. I have learned that it is tremendously important to stand alongside our global nursing colleagues. It is both an honor and an obligation.

NN: In what ways do you think this work is impactful to the nursing community?

Lori: As a nurse and a Fulbright Scholar, I was provided the venue to advocate for nurses and highlight the importance of the contributions of nurses in healthcare research. My hope is that my Fulbright research and my current hypertension study in Uganda will help elucidate best practices for nurse-led hypertension interventions. Conducting nursing research has a positive impact, not only through the potential population health impact, but also in the mutually beneficial process of multinational partnerships.

Teaching the next generation of nurses is perhaps the most significant possible impact on the nursing community. To encourage the development of global nurses, to empower nurse leaders and to cultivate nurse researchers has an impact that continues in a myriad of ways.

NN: As a nurse, how are you in a unique position to collaborate with others and share what you’ve learned?

Lori: As different as nursing practices may be worldwide, our goals in caring for our patients are very similar. As leaders and researchers, nurse faculty can partner with our global colleagues to identify and pursue mutually beneficial collaborative endeavours. Our partnered efforts can help facilitate nurses to lead from the bedside and in the board room. Nurses have unique perspectives and insights that are needed to help inform the decision of health policy makers in our countries.

NN: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Lori: Nurses’ full involvement will be needed to adequately meet population health needs and achieve sustainable development goals. When we can achieve these goals in solidarity with our global nursing colleagues and encourage nursing leadership and research, the nursing workforce is strengthened. When the nursing workforce is strengthened, that is when strategic goals can be met and population health improves.

To learn more about Dr. Spies’ work as a Fulbright Scholar, visit the Baylor University website here.

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