Global nursing, Part 1: Listen, learn, act

By Sharon M. Weinstein and Ann Marie T. Brooks | 11/21/2017

Intercultural competency and global thinking are essential to international collaboration.

Stethoscope held against globeThe authors, who have significant experience in global nursing collaboration, share tips and techniques with readers. Part 1 of a three-part global nursing miniseries.

Ann Marie T. BrooksSharon M. WeinsteinIn Nursing Without Borders: Values, Wisdom, Success Markers, we introduced readers to renowned international nursing leaders whose insights and stories were shared across the United States and around the globe. They demonstrated the value of international collaboration among nurses and the potential to generate some of life’s most enriching experiences.

Collaboration is an important process in creating global communities. Nursing has a long tradition of international collaboration through participation and leadership in international organizations, partnerships, consultation, teaching, and networking. Nurses have been risk takers, change agents, and activists in advancing nursing and promoting healthcare’s agenda. Their efforts have resulted in positive changes in health policies, new standards, and improved patient outcomes.

Although the benefits of their work have been substantial, the international work of nurses has gone largely unnoticed by members of the profession as well as international nursing and healthcare organizations. This lack of awareness can be attributed partly to failure of communication and partly to insufficient evidence demonstrating the impact of this work in generating positive healthcare outcomes.

As in other fields of human endeavor, globalization is having an impact on nursing. Like their counterparts, nurses travel abroad to work, vacation, and learn. Thinking and working globally have enhanced our personal and professional growth. We’ve learned new ways of viewing health and healthcare. Our skills as facilitators, trainers, problem-solvers, strategic planners, and project managers have grown. Our experiences have made us “insiders” to that global effort, and, in the following paragraphs, we offer tips and techniques that will enhance the success of your global nursing initiatives:

Do your homework
Have you traveled internationally for a vacation? Think about how you prepared. Did you explore the country on the internet to determine the language or languages spoken, learn what emergency systems were in place, and identify where to eat and stay and what sites to visit? Did you learn a few phrases of the local language? Did you find out what the country’s monetary unit is? Did you learn about the health system? Doing one’s homework is imperative to success, not just for vacations, but also for global work relationships.

Be culturally sensitive
Don’t assume everyone will speak English. Educate yourself on the culture of your partner country to be aware of sensitivities. Include money for translators in your program budget. Speak clearly and simply, and be patient and supportive when partners communicate in your language. 

Share vision and values
A good relationship begins with mutual exploration of the mission and vision of your partners. What is the purpose of your initiative? How did it evolve? How will you handle diversity? 

Plan the work and work the plan
Successful working relationships depend on good planning, and those plans must benefit both parties. Representatives of collaborating organizations should jointly develop and carefully review the plan and budget. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) helps create a work plan that is measurable and ensures accountability, especially if outside funding is involved.

Who makes a good traveler?
A passport, suitcase, and will to travel do not a great traveler make. Selecting candidates for travel is as critical for an organization as selecting candidates to fill key positions. They represent your institution, organization, or professional society as well as themselves. The success of your efforts as an organization depends on selecting the right people. Sustaining relationships with collaborating partners depends on the caliber of the professionals who represent you.

Just as comfortable shoes contribute to more successful travel, so choosing the right people—getting the right fit—contributes to achieving your project’s goals. In addition to possessing the topical knowledge needed for the task, the travelers you select should be nonjudgmental, culturally sensitive, open-minded, lifelong learners, physically healthy, and willing to learn a few phrases of the language spoken in the host country. Whether the assignment is short-term (a few days to a few weeks) or long-term (a few months to a year or more), international travelers must be prepared to listen, learn, and act.

Monitor and evaluate results
When both parties prepare and approve written plans, it’s easy to monitor progress and evaluate results. For the latter, outcome indicators are needed. A variety of tools are available for tracking outcomes, but for each indicator, we recommend inclusion of the following: 1) reason the indicator was chosen, along with assumptions; 2) method of data collection; 3) baseline data; and 4) barriers to collecting data.

Relationship sustainability critical
The ability to sustain partnership relationships is a marker of program success. Plans that include strategies to promote sustainability will help both parties think ahead and plan for the future.

Intercultural competencies and ability to think globally are essential for successful international collaboration in the 21st century. To improve the health of the world’s populations, nursing leadership needs to partner and collaborate with other disciplines.

Are you ready to begin, expand, or renew a global healthcare relationship? Use the insider tips we’ve provided to bridge the gaps and achieve success. RNL

Click here to access “Global nursing, Part 2: From contacts to collaborators.”
Click here to access “Global nursing, Part 3: Partnering for success.”

Sharon M. Weinstein, MS, CRNI-R, RN, FACW, FAAN, CSP, is one of 22 nurses worldwide with the certified speaking professional credential. Weinstein is president and founder of the Global Education Development Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes nurse development around the world, and president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is the author of B is for Balance: 12 Steps Toward a More Balanced Life at Home and at Work, published by Sigma Publishing.

Ann Marie T. Brooks, DNSc, RN, MBA, FAAN, FACHE, FNAP, an expert on patient safety, has been a Magnet team leader and appraiser with the American Nurses Credentialing Center since 2002. A member of the National Speakers Association, as well as director and founding member of GEDI, Brooks completed the Institute of Healthcare Improvement Executive Development Program in 2016.


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