Recently, a team of the American Nursing Institute (ANI) Faculty traveled to present a unique, one-week nursing skills strengthening conference to over 50 nurses in the capital city of Yangon, Myanmar. ANI selected faculty with strong teaching experience and clinical expertise for this engagement. Our team, led by Dr. Martha Tanicala, EdD, MSN, RN, Director of ANI, included three additional faculty members:
What inspired you to join the ANI faculty team?
Dr. Hines – For me, it was the connection to the existing team members. I received a call from Patricia Williams about the opportunity and the invitation to join, and when I learned of who would be going (Dr. Williams, Dr. Tanicala, etc.), it was a great team, so I was delighted to join.
Dr. Williams – I’ve always heard such positive things about international travel. This conference provided a wonderful opportunity to see different parts of the world for myself. Travel transforms you into a different person.
Dr. Strobbe – I already had relationships with people at GHSN, so I instantly trusted in the opportunity. Additionally, there was an allure to seeing firsthand the developmental period Myanmar is currently in. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to participate at such a unique period in Myanmar’s history.
What was the most impactful or memorable part of the trip?
Dr. Hines – I have never been to a hotel where they gave a gift to the guests! [note: The hotel gifted each ANI faculty member with framed traditional artwork] The hotel The hospitality of the people in Myanmar was wonderful. Everyone was so incredibly gracious and a real delight.
Dr. Williams – For me, it was also the people who made the greatest impact. Everyone we met was so polite and seemed to have a persona or aura of spirituality. It was so calming and relaxing.
Dr. Strobbe – It was a privilege to be able to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is a holy site and a world heritage site. For me, visiting one of their holiest sites created a powerful link between my experience and the people of Myanmar.
What surprised you the most about Myanmar?
Dr. Hines – The traffic! It was constant and so bustling. It was also interesting for me to witness the people living life everywhere – there are street kitchens and people selling their wares on every street and open area, which is different from home.
Dr. Strobbe – The fresh fruit and delicious food was everywhere! It was also wonderful to see the positive reactions from our team wearing the Burmese traditional clothing. Everyone who saw us was delighted.
Dr. Williams – Although I was aware of it before arriving, the density of the people in Yangon was still amazing to witness. It would be hard to be an introvert there.
What did you share anything with others upon your return home?
Dr. Hines – Most people asked about the food. It was a pleasure to be able to share cultural immersion pictures, such as the Buddhist nuns who we would see every morning and the woman with a basket on her head, as well as the souvenir artwork, because they were so closely tied to the experiences I had.
Dr. Williams – I received lots of questions about the food and people as well. Again, the people were spiritual and kind, and I felt incredibly safe the entire time I was visiting. Several people asked about how safe it was. I never once felt unsafe.
Dr. Strobbe – I shared everything I could – photos, experiences, etc…
What did you learn from the participants, conference, or trip?
Dr. Williams – The nurses were bright, insightful, and wanted to learn. Even without the technology-intensive resources we have in the U.S., they were incredibly talented with working in what they have. They were so resourceful. It was incredible to see what they could recall from memory, when in the US we constantly are looking things up.
Dr. Hines – They were all brilliant and so gracious. The beauty of what they wrote on the conference worksheets in English and their comprehension of the language was wonderful. Overall, their level of nursing knowledge was really very high.
Dr. Strobbe – The one thing that continues to echo with me is that the passion for nursing is a global phenomenon. Although we all had just met, there was an instantaneous connection within the profession.
How would you like to see healthcare and nursing change in Myanmar?
Dr. Williams – From the very little bit we were able to observe and in such a compact snippet of time, Id’ like to see the adoption of systems thinking. Currently, because of the rapid growth, systems are fragmented and nurses have little experience in working together. I also sensed that there is a culture of waiting for tasks to be assigned, instead of taking initiative. With a few checklists and education on the concepts of patient experience, patient-centered care, and inter-professionalism, major changes could be made in a short time.
Dr. Hines – I feel as if going for such a short time, I don’t have strong enough knowledge of the system to make any comment, but in relation to Dr. William’s point, would like to see nurses be given the authority and permission to make changes.
Dr. Strobbe – I’m eager to see the evolution of nursing in the context of a new culture. With the opening of the borders and exchange of information, a new culture is emerging. The country and nursing are both changing so rapidly, so it will be fascinating to see what happens.
What do you know now that you wish you had known before going?
Dr. Hines – Any of the things that created a hesitance or a concern before I left were completely outweighed by the pleasure and enjoyment I gained from the experience, from the group of nurses, and from visiting Myanmar.
Dr. Strobbe – Reading up on the country and culture beforehand is invaluable. Whatever research and bits you can learn upfront helps make the experience more enriching. It opens you up to the experience, because the large questions are already addressed. Travel always reminds me that humanity and people are better than I remember.
Dr. Williams – Relying on today’s technology, our cellphones, the internet, the news …it isn’t really adding to our quality of life. I wasn’t inundated with the news like I am at home. Being separated, if even momentarily, from the negativity of the news is incredibly detoxifying.
Is there anything you’d like others to know?
Dr. Williams – If given the opportunity to travel, one should do it. I feel particularly every nurse would benefit from an overseas opportunity to see how nursing is practiced in other parts of the world.
Dr. Strobbe – Our team was great and so were the conference participants! We are all more alike than different, which is both awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time. It made me more aware of my own culture.
Dr. Hines – Having teaching and healthcare exposure in another part of the world can change the profession at home. I know I will never teach the same way.
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