Recently, someone asked me what my biggest takeaway was from being Sigma’s President from 2017-2019. I immediately answered, “The world is small.”
Anyone who has traveled a great deal probably has had this same thought. One only needs to walk through a major airport and see planes leaving for many distant places to realize that, if one has the time and financial resources, it is possible to travel to almost anywhere in the world in a day or two. One can have breakfast that morning at home and the next morning on the other side of the world. But I was thinking something different. Let me explain.
The nursing world is small for two primary reasons. The first has to do with nurses’ backgrounds and skillsets, regardless of where they live or work. In his book Leading with Cultural Intelligence, David Livermore writes that cultural intelligence is critical for leadership in our multi-cultural world. He defines cultural intelligence (“CQ”) as “the capacity to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures.” One of the first characteristics of leaders with high CQ is that they are very curious and enthusiastic about learning and adapting to different and new cultural settings. I believe that nurses, because of our personalities and education, are especially well-suited to working across different types of boundaries, with people who are different than ourselves. I would argue that working effectively across cultures is inherent in our jobs whether we are working locally, with colleagues or patients who come from different specialties, different organizations, different ethnicities or neighborhoods, or working globally across different countries.
The second reason is that we share a common profession. Tsedal Neeley, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, has conducted a decade of research into the importance of lingua franca, or common language, in collaborations. While she has focused on spoken languages (e.g., Spanish, English), her work has led me to think about the importance of commonalities when working together. Our common “language” is the language of nursing. It is the language of our profession that enables and motivates us to work well together across national and other types of boundaries, regardless of regulatory or other types of differences.
The global regional panels convened by Sigma for the Global Advisory Panel on the Future of Nursing & Midwifery (GAPFON®) clearly demonstrated this. Although priority health issues varied from region to region, nurses around the world, on all the panels, identified leadership development as key to nursing’s future, whether we were talking about initiatives in practice, research, education, policy/regulation, or workforce. When we conducted the extensive branding studies with our members, it was very clear that the international nature of our organization was important to members and that members believe that Sigma provides a respected and credible voice for nursing internationally.
Sigma’s new mission, developed by the 2017-2019 Board of Directors, is “Developing nurse leaders anywhere to improve healthcare everywhere.” This new mission recognizes that our nursing backgrounds, skills, common professional language, and culture make us much more the same than we are different. In global nursing, the world is indeed very small.
Beth Baldwin Tigges, PhD, RN, PNP, BC, served as Sigma’s president from 2017 to 2019. She is a member of Sigma’s virtual chapter, Phi Gamma, and Gamma Sigma Chapter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.