Every day I receive updates, inquiries, requests, and simple hellos from around the world. These messages arrive instantly and constantly via e-mail. Many are sent from remote locations; all bring news of nursing; some ask for help.
From sub-Saharan Africa, alumni request nursing books, medications, medical equipment, and volunteers. From Tanzania, a recent PhD graduate offers feedback on how her experiences as a student here will help her bring health care resources to East Africa. The fellows in our Minority Global Health Disparities Research Training Program send reports about their work in Sweden, Australia, Korea, and South Africa. Alumni and other colleagues write from international postings with the U.S. government and NGOs. Nurses from other countries request visits, want to take courses, and ask for consultations. Others seek to join the graduate and doctoral students and post-graduate fellows from Lebanon, China, and South Africa who now study at the School.
By practicing nursing in distant locations, all of these nurses are in a vanguard reversing the nursing brain drain from developing countries. These global nurses are bringing best practices to populations throughout the world. Now and in the future they will significantly impact-one nurse at a time-the unrelenting worldwide nursing crisis. As practicing nurses, educators, researchers, mentors, and preceptors, they are helping to stem the exodus of professional and prospective nurses in developing countries. They bring the resources, training, and guidance that struggling educators and practicing nurses need to teach students, treat patients, shape health care policy, and lead their institutions.
Nursing’s global responsibility-and opportunity-is recognized by our incoming students. When asked “Why Nursing?” and “Why Hopkins?” their altruism and global perspectives are evident: “After serving in the Peace Corps in Togo, I realized how desperate my village was for adequate health care. I want the knowledge and skills to provide that care;” “Nursing is transportable, essential health care. I want to share my skills around the world;” or simply, “Because it’s all about people!” They explain their choice of Hopkins as: “It’s a world-renowned University with a presence around the globe;” “…the opportunities with Hopkins to work in community health, here and overseas are limitless-as is the ability to make an impact here and everywhere;” and “…the incredible Hopkins international network.”
They are a global generation that is attracted to and informed by other cultures, and they want their nursing education to be internationally applicable. Their hopes and dreams for future global nursing careers are not those of nave dreamers or novices. When describing interesting aspects of their lives, the Accelerated ’09 class tells us of their previous international experiences; they cite their work and volunteerism in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Poland, Russia, Paris, Copenhagen, Senegal, Mexico, Mali and elsewhere. They’ve been there, and they want to go back.
Our students are eager to reverse the brain drain and to share their nursing knowledge throughout the world. They anticipate working to enhance nursing education and improve nursing practice. They want to be among those who craft policy changes, influence decision makers, and ensure qualified nurses have the opportunities and resources to thrive in their own countries. They will be among the future leaders who address-and resolve-the nursing shortage both here and abroad.
We must nurture and preserve their passion to make a difference globally. Each year at Hopkins, we offer a select number of baccalaureate and graduate students international experiences that not only whet their appetites for global nursing, but also nourish their aspirations to undertake a career of international nursing leadership. Although limited, these experiences are proving to be effective in launching a new generation of global nurses.
But we need to do more. With more resources, many more students will have the opportunity to engage in our work to address the international nursing crisis and to reverse the drain of nurses.
I urge you to join me in making this happen. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how you might help.
Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN, ’64
Professor of Nursing, Medicine and Public Health