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Comparative Experiences in Nursing Research, Education and Practice in the UK and US

September 30, 2013
UNC Global

Comparative nursing research, education and practice are blossoming from the connections between the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London. One individual who has substantially strengthened the collaboration between the schools is Donna Havens, a professor at the UNC School of Nursing, who was appointed a 2012-2014 visiting professor at King’s during her Carrington Leave.

“Nursing at King’s has tremendous historical significance for nurses,” says Havens. The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery descends from the first professional nurse training school in the world, which was established in 1860 by Florence Nightingale in St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, a hospital affiliated with King’s today.

An Unforgettable Honor

Havens was invited to attend the 2013 annual service in May to commemorate the life and work of Florence Nightingale at Westminster Abbey by the head of the Florence Nightingale School, Helen McCutcheon. This annual service celebrates nursing and midwifery and all staff working in health care. Nearly 2,000 nurses, midwives, healthcare professionals and guests from around the world attended the event, which Havens says was an unforgettable honor.

Havens notes that international connections, such as those Carolina’s nursing school is building across the Atlantic, expand and build on the global research of nursing experts from both institutions. While health care issues that need to be addressed might be similar in diverse areas of the world, exploring cultural differences can lead to a nuanced approach to practice and care from which an “outsider” can gain valuable lessons and new perspectives for their own practices.

In addition to her background and research focus on the quality of nursing practice and nursing care within hospitals, Havens’ experience leading nursing organizations to make evidence-based change was of particular interest to her British colleagues. While at King’s, Havens collaborated with Jill Maben, director of the National Nursing Research Unit, which is housed at King’s. She was interested to learn about the research colleagues and students are conducting at King’s and to learn that as well as the fundamental quality of care issues, the London researchers also are interested in the nurses’ experience as employees and how this can directly impact care quality.

During her time in London, Havens became integrated into the school by attending numerous debates, lectures and meetings. She was invited to graduate program meetings, research and school meetings and met with a number of administrators, faculty, researchers and students with whom she had ongoing exchanges about current issues and future research. Issues discussed included multitasking in nursing practice; nurse well-being and compassion; the patient/family experience; patient and care giver co-design of care; and nurse workforce concerns.

One other highlight of her experience at King’s was when Havens was invited to give the keynote address at the inaugural King’s Health Partners Nursing and Midwifery Conference in May 2013. The conference was attended by clinical nurses and leaders from all of the King’s Health Partner hospitals in London. The conference provided an opportunity to present her recent research findings on developing nurse work engagement and to network with leaders in nursing in the U.K.

Havens also conducted site visits at six major London hospitals: King’s College London Hospital; the Maudsley Hospital; Bethlehem Royal Hospital–a historic psychiatric hospital and major research center, first opened in 1503; St. Thomas’ Hospital; University College London Hospitals; and St. Mary’s Hospital.

Havens also facilitated the U.S. visit of a London nurse leader, Vanessa Smith, for a three-week tour of hospitals in the northeast as part of her Florence Nightingale Fellowship.

Continued King’s and UNC Collaborations

Collaboration with King’s is extending throughout the School of Nursing. Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor Kristen M. Swanson visited King’s in July to deliver the keynote address at a conference and to conduct exploratory discussions about future collaboration with Head of School Helen McCutcheon. Gwen Sherwood, associate dean for academic affairs at UNC’s School of Nursing, has also been involved in expanding the relationship with King’s.

“Experience at King’s will open the eyes of Carolina students and faculty to a larger worldview. London is one of the most international cities in the world, so nurses there work with a wide variety of cultures, which in turn influences leadership, education and practice approaches,” says Havens. Her experience at King’s College, she says, is shaping her practice, as well as the comparative nursing lessons she’ll share with students in the classroom.

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