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Nurse educators changing the world highlighted in new book

The quiet actions of unsung heroes from the rainforest of Guatemala to the city streets of Harlem will be celebrated during the 2010 International Year of the Nurse in the new book, Giving through Teaching: How Nurse Educators are Changing the World (Springer Publishing).

Patterned after President Bill Clinton's book, Giving, which told the stories of individuals making a difference in their communities, Giving through Teaching provides a perspective on contributions made by nurses.

"One nurse taking a small step to change health conditions here and abroad can have a lasting impression," said Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, the Elizabeth Brooks Ford Professor of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and one of the book's editors. "The educators featured in this book are examples of the meaningful work nurses are doing around the world."

The National League of Nursing (NLN) issued a call last year for personal stories about the service nurse educators undertake outside their classrooms that has impacted the profession's education. Fitzpatrick and co-editors Cathleen M. Shultz, dean of nursing at Harding University and current President of the NLN, and Tonia D. Aiken past member of the NLN Foundation Board, compiled more than 70 stories.

The stories have had a ripple effect in the profession. More continue to arrive as the project has ignited and inspired other educators to share their stories, Fitzpatrick said. More than 100 educators responded, so far.

Throughout time, people have treated the sick, but Fitzpatrick opens the book with the onset of the historical heroes who launched the profession of nursing:

  • Florence Nightingale, who administered to soldiers on the battlefields of the Crimean War
  • Clara Barton, who had a similar role in the American Civil War and founded the American Red Cross
  • Lillian Wald, an advocate for immigrant health on the lower east side of New York City
  • Isabel Hampton Robb, a professor at the forerunner of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at CWRU, who introduced new competency-based evaluations for nurses
  • Mary Breckenridge, who aided people in Appalachian mountains
  • Lucille Petry Leone, who established the U. S. Cadet Nurse Corps following legislation introduced by Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton

Medical missions have taken nursing students from the comfort of their American classrooms to remote parts of the developing world to see the importance of delivering health care to people without adequate water and food and few medical supplies. The educational experience sensitizes students to the plight of people around the world.

The stories reveal how far and under dire circumstances people receive care, from a cave in Africa's Eritrea where medical care is given with few supplies and equipment or a large public maternity hospital in Argentina where women give birth in a labor room that lacks privacy, hospital gowns and sheets.

One example, Fitzpatrick cites, is the work of the faculty of Harding University School of Nursing where her co-editor Shultz is the Dean. These faculty members did medical work in Haiti, but returned to Arkansas to see that people in their state also were in need of healthcare and marshaled and mobilized the support of student nurses in a service-learning experience to combat some of local and regional health issues like high blood pressure, prenatal care and obesity.

Other projects, like Susie Oliver's, started small in 1996 by making Thanksgiving dinner at the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis when a local nonprofit group dropped the project weeks before the holiday. What started as dinner for 30 people on a $500 budget today has grown to over 200 people involved and donations of more than $22,000.

"Service learning has opened many doors for my students and me. When a person looks outside of themselves, they see that their lives can be enriched by helping others who are less fortunate or who are traveling a different journey in life," Oliver writes.


Contact: Susan Griffith
Case Western Reserve University

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