Many of us are eager to help others close to home as well as globally. We may have a vague idea that we can learn from each other, but the thought remains in the back of our minds. Too often we are busy getting ready for the experience; preparing supplies, books and hopefully, doing some research to provide cultural context. Unfortunately, good intentions can never be enough to develop or sustain partnerships. Short-term study abroad and volunteer experiences are especially vulnerable to the “good intentions” phenomenon, often fostered unknowingly by educators (McBride & Mlyn, 2012). Partnership development relies on building relationships and this can only occur through time, perseverance, and negotiation among all partners.
There are ways we can promote partnership both indirectly and directly. First, we need to listen to each other. Conferences such as Nursing Leadership in Global Health (February 27-28, 2014) can bring together nurses from all parts of the world to discuss issues and create action plans for ongoing initiatives. These forums can also provide a mechanism for exploring our own intentions. For example, in the address by Judith Oulton, previous CEO of the International Council of Nurses, we were reminded that in some instances, nursing students can be the problem rather than the solution. We, as educators, have an ethical responsibility to be sure that students are well-prepared before entering into study abroad experiences.
Second, we can enter into the dialogue of partnership as we have done through our book, Global Health Nursing: Building and Sustaining Partnerships. Developing partnerships is complex work and our book provides the theoretical foundations for developing partnerships. Reading true stories of partnership provides the realization that obstacles can usually be overcome with time and intention.
Finally, developing and sharing our own stories of partnership is important. We can learn the essential characteristics and elements of successful partnerships in the abstract, but real world examples from nurses and health professionals help give substance to those elements. In particular, our stories must consider not only our personal views but also those of our partners in order to better understand their perspectives. Jeanne Leffers, just returned from Haiti, shares her story:
As a long time nurse volunteer in settings at home and abroad, I have both a broad and “up close” view of partnerships but until now solely from the nurse/nurse educator/volunteer perspective. In our upcoming book, Global Health Nursing: Building and Sustaining Partnerships we feature a case study about an academic service-learning experience between the organization Partners in Development in Haiti and a US college of nursing. Recently I returned to Haiti as a representative of Partners in Development (PID) with whom I have worked for several years as the faculty member for the nursing students. This year, instead of coming as a faculty member, I was invited to serve as the PID representative/US team clinic coordinator for the visiting US team as they assisted the Haitian national staff to provide care in the clinic and support the housing construction program. Viewing the service provided by the US team of physicians, nurses, and students through the lens of the Haitian staff made a profound impact upon my understanding of what McBride & Mlyn (2012) and Erasmus (2011) refer to as mutual benefits, positive outcomes, constructive dialogue, reciprocity and partnership. To be of service and not do harm (nonmaleficence) to the host community requires diligence to achieve such outcomes.
To partner with intention, we must strive to develop better measures for the benefits and outcomes of our partnerships upon our host communities. By strengthening the network of global health nurses, we can advance knowledge to measure the impact of partnerships for not only student and volunteer nurse partners but for those host communities we aim to serve.
Erasmus, M. (2011). Perspective on North American International Service Learning. In
Bringle, R.G., Hatcher, J.A. & Jones, S.G. International Service Learning: Conceptual Frameworks and Research. Stylus: Sterling, VA. 347-371.
McBride, A.M. & Mlyn, E. (2012, January 25). International volunteer services: Good intentions are not enough. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/International-Volunteer/130459/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm