The author discloses that she has no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.
Whether we work with older refugees in a camp in Lebanon, at a community center for senior citizens in the northwestern United States, or with residents of a long-term care facility in Scotland, we share a commonality—gerontological nursing practice, the care of older adults and those important to them. This sense of commonality, of shared purpose, opens up amazing possibilities for dialogue and the advancement of our specialty if we take advantage of them.
This common purpose opens up the possibility of sharing knowledge; in other words, the promotion of evidence-informed gerontological nursing practice. What is happening in other countries? How are they developing best practice guidelines? What kind of research initiatives are being introduced? How do their research agendas differ from our own? Are we working on similar problems? The answers to these questions come from the conversations we have with our international colleagues.
Most of us work with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. They come to our shores with their own ethnic perspectives and health behaviors. Although gerontological nurses have begun to recognize the need for culturally appropriate nursing care, the available literature does not currently provide a systematic method for comprehensive assessment or nursing interventions specific to the needs of many older adults. Through across-border sharing, we acquire information on cultural practices and interventions to support the integration of older clients into their new country.
There is also the possibility of shared teaching and learning resources specific to our specialty. Core content and clinical experiences may be developed across geographical boundaries, opening students’ eyes to the richness of diversity and variety of gerontological nursing roles and responsibilities.
There are challenges in trying to move forward on some of these possibilities. The concept of international networking is one that emphasizes the opportunity of learning between different geographical areas and cultural communities. It requires openness to distinct forms of knowledge, which might not adhere to our own European American beliefs of how academic knowledge is created. In addition, there is a need to reflect on the power relationships that often exist between different constituencies. Finally, in many developed countries there is a tendency to assume that the World Wide Web is truly global; however, access remains a difficulty for some of our gerontological colleagues.
While acknowledging these challenges, how do we move forward to seize such possibilities? One example is drawn from the Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association, which did some initial work in calling nurses together to create a World Federation of Gerontological Nurses in Vienna at the 2007 Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International conference. To continue this conversation, they have invited international representatives to their 2009 conference in Banff, Alberta. A more recent example is drawn from the 28 national nursing organizations, including 21 specialty associations and 7 members of the Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations, which in March of this year endorsed the Specialty Nursing Association Global Vision Statement on Care of Older Adults (Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, 2009).
These few examples of working together across borders show how we are building a shared house of gerontological nursing. Our fundamental desire to make a positive difference in the care of older adults serves as a springboard to a future that is truly exciting.
Sandi Hirst, PhD, RN, GNC(C)
Brenda Strafford Centre for Excellence in
University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada…