International Program Continues to Expand

Japanese nursing students pose with symposium speakers at the closing program of the fifth anniversary celebration of the founding of the Department of Nursing at Asahi University.

As the United States becomes more diverse, institutions that prepare future health care professionals must provide the experience necessary to prepare students to care for diverse patient populations. Establishing active international programs for nursing students allows them to be exposed to different cultures and health care systems.

Three years ago, M. Danet Lapiz Bluhm, Ph.D., M.S.C.I., RN, FAAN, director of international programs at UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing, made it her goal to improve and sustain the school’s international programs to benefit students and faculty as well as the international community.

Family nurse practitioner students traveled to Jamaica to present their scholarly work at the 2019 Sigma Theta Tau Induction. M. Danet Lapiz Bluhm (from left), Ph.D., M.S.C.I., RN, FAAN; Allison Stepanenko, M.S.N. Class of 2019, FNP-C; Tracey Smith Page, D.N.P., RN, FNP-BC; and Beverly Gail Hutzler, M.S.N. Class of 2019, APRN, FNP, participated in the trip.

“These international experiences are often life changing for the nursing students who come back with better knowledge, skills and attitudes toward providing care for diverse populations,” says Dr. Bluhm, adding that many faculty who lead international programs today were beneficiaries of study abroad experiences when they were students.

Memorandums of understanding

To date, the nursing school has signed memorandum of understanding agreements with counterparts worldwide, including programs in Mexico, Finland, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Hong Kong, Turkey, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia. These agreements include a range of options for faculty members and students through study abroad programs, research and teaching exchanges, curriculum development, continuing education and other programs.
The Office of International Programs has facilitated dozens of cooperative activities, although several planned programs were postponed or canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an early initiative, the School of Nursing co-sponsored a 2016 international collaborative conference at Chiang Mai University in Thailand. At a subsequent conference at Mahidol University in Thailand, Dr. Bluhm spoke on the patient safety movement titled “Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety.” In another collaboration, the nursing school co-sponsored the first Cochrane Hong Kong Symposium at the Chinese University in Hong Kong.

Faculty involvement

In the area of program and curriculum development, nursing school faculty—including Professor Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, and Assistant Professor/Clinical Herlinda Zamora, M.S.N., RN—provided training to nursing faculty at the Universidad Autonoma de Neuva Leon de Monterrey.

As part of another program, collaborative work with Asahi University in Japan featured a visit by Dean Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, and Cynthia O’Neal, Ph.D., RN, associate dean of undergraduate studies, who both provided feedback on the development of the Japanese school’s nursing program. In 2019, Drs. O’Neal and Bluhm attended Asahi University’s fifth anniversary symposium celebrating its Department of Nursing.

Similar program and curriculum development activities occurred in 2019 when Jim Cleveland, Ph.D., M.S.N., RN, director of the Center for Simulation Innovation, visited King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, College of Nursing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to discuss simulation training.

Assistant Professor Moonju Lee (far right), Ph.D., RN, took a group of students from Ulsan University in South Korea on a tour of University Hospital.

The mission of grant collaboration led Dr. Bluhm to consult with nursing faculty at Sa˘glık Bilimleri Üniversitesi in Turkey through the grant-funded Mevlana Exchange Program. This program, which involves students and faculty at both institutions, grew out of a previous visit to San Antonio by a faculty member from the Turkish school, Dr. Rabiye Guney, who expressed interest in developing simulation and patient safety programs.

In another student and faculty exchange, nursing professors at the Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila de Saltillo visited UT Health, as did faculty from a sister university in Piedras Negras. In turn, Dr. Bluhm and Martha Martinez, M.S.N., RNC, associate professor/clinical, presented at the 2nd Congreso Iberoamericano to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Coahuila nursing faculty.

Additionally, nursing faculty consulted with faculty at Ulsan University in South Korea to develop the first Clinical Nurse Leader Program in Korea. As part of the exchange in 2019 and through the leadership of Moonju Lee, Ph.D., RN, Ulsan faculty and students visited the San Antonio campus and toured University Hospital and Methodist Hospital.

Faculty research was highlighted through sessions hosted by Professor Kathleen Stevens, Ed.D., RN, ANEF, FAAN, for faculty from the University of Eastern Finland and Australia. Dr. Bluhm collaborated with faculty at the Filamer Christian University in the Philippines to determine consequences of prenatal exposure to the super typhoon Haiyan to mother-infant dyads.
Interprofessional studies

Still another priority is the development of interprofessional global health activities for students from different health care professions to interact and learn from each other. This goal resulted in collaborations between the nursing school and colleagues at UT Health’s School of Health Professions for interprofessional study abroad activities at the Universidad Manuela Beltran in Bogota, Colombia; the University of Coventry in Coventry, England; and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Manipal, India.

Global mission trips

Since 2006, nursing students and faculty led by Janis Rice, M.S.N., RN, CNS-CC, associate professor/clinical, have conducted global missions through the San Antonio Guatemalan Endeavor. Students study in a foreign country, learn about health care issues impacting the country, and provide health care to the indigenous Mayan Indian populace. Medical and surgical care is given along with community support. In 2015, Kathryn Parke, D.N.P., PNP, assistant professor/clinical and track coordinator for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program, joined the endeavor to supervise nurse practitioner graduate students.

In 2019, Martinez and students from the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, teamed up with the Texas Tech University Health Science Center on a medical mission to Jamaica.

To help frame an international agenda, Dr. Bluhm guided the formation of the Committee on International Programs. The committee of elected faculty and students was approved in 2018 and in place by 2019, with Heidi J. Worabo, D.N.P., FNP, assistant professor and track coordinator for the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, as its first chair. Several ex-officio members and non-elected faculty also attend because of their interest in global health.

Dr. Worabo and other multidisciplinary faculty and students support the San Antonio Refugee Health Clinic to provide health care for immigrants new to San Antonio. Nursing faculty and students join other schools in serving vulnerable residents along the U.S.-Mexican border. Dr. Bluhm works with students on community service learning projects engaging minority populations such as Filipino Americans, Vietnamese Americans and other Asian communities.

Dr. Bluhm and the committee members are striving to offer sustainable global health opportunities for students that go beyond “medical tourism” and instead are rooted in community. Funding is a major issue to assure student participation. Dr. Bluhm and the committee members are looking at models that incorporate global activities into courses that can be covered by student fees or eligible for financial aid.

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