What an exciting opportunity to be invited to teach in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies. St. George’s University brings professors and lecturers from other nations and cultures to the college for a semester or a year to embolden a global perspective to the nursing profession for the school’s international student body. The college’s tropical location, population of friendly people, and lively culture provide a perfect backdrop to St. George’s global educational focus.
Global nursing education partnerships are rapidly developing. These partnerships open gateways to exchanging best practices and enhancing nursing education programs around the world. The question is: How do those involved with improving global nursing practices accomplish this task? The nursing profession, as a whole, needs new strategies to provide global benchmarks in education for nursing students and practicing nurses. Nurses simply cannot practice in vacuum in the 21st century. Faculty exchanges are a great way for nurses to experience a different culture and understand global health issues, as the problems of one country may affect another.1
I have always wanted to teach abroad, especially in the Caribbean. So, when I received the invitation to teach at St. George’s, I jumped at the chance. The visiting professorship opened a door to be a part of the international nursing education experience, which other visiting professors have written about in the past and I have only read about. Now, I get to write about my experience.
Additionally, this opportunity to serve as a visiting professor helped me widen my career network and build valuable relationships. I have forged many lasting professional relationships with outstanding practitioners in their field, and I have even made some friends that I will continue to cherish.
Juggling the demands of my businesses while teaching made traveling to Grenada a little tricky. Even though I was actualizing a dream, I still had several active contracts that I needed to fulfill. I found I had to plan ahead to ensure that I had Internet access and access to a phone line to stay in touch with clients and students. This would prove to be no small task.
Dr. Beverly Bonaparte, PhD, ANP, RN, FAAH, Dean of Nursing and Allied Health Services, provided me with an overview of the university and its policies as well as information on housing, transportation, and food accommodations. St. George’s University hosted everything, which was providedto me in a detailed contract. The contract laid out the courses I would teach, the timeframe, travel arrangements, and compensation.
While en route to Grenada to begin my assignment, I fractured my left thumb. At the time, I was unaware that my thumb had sustained such an injury so when I settled in I treated my injury as a strain. It quickly became clear that my injury was not a simple strain. I relented and sought medical attention. This gave me the opportunity to experience the Grenadian health care system firsthand.
St. George’s University has a health care clinic, which serves students, faculty, and staff. The college provides health insurance, at a cost of $200 per semester, that a visiting professor can purchase. I had opted not to purchase the insurance.
I was examined by one of the clinic’s doctors. Then I was sent to an offsite medical facility to have an x-ray of my thumb and receive an orthopedic consultation. My U.S. health insurance was not accepted so I had to pay out-of- pocket for the services. However, I was provided with claim forms to send to my health insurance company for reimbursement as well as a copy of my x-ray and the physician’s recommendations.
The costs for the health services were low compared to what it would have cost in the U.S. I followed up with St. George’s University health clinic for any additional services needed. When I returned to the U.S., Ifollowed up with a specialist who validated that the treatment and recommendations I had received in Grenada were excellent.
There are typically five types of visiting professors at universities in the U.S. and across the globe:
The host university may need specialized courses taught and its current faculty may not possess adequate knowledge of the subject. Also, budget constraints may not allow the school to hire additional full-time faculty. This combination necessitates the hiring of visiting professors.
The contracts are usually a minimum of two months to a maximum of two years. The timeframe depends on the course delivery and method. For example, I was contractedfor a 16-week semester but taught a course in a hybrid model, meaning I taught part of the course on campus and the other part online.
The university particularly benefits when the visiting professors are on sabbatical since half of their salary is often paid by their home universities.3 And when a school is looking to hire a professor permanently, some will try out the visiting professor first. The university saves money using short-term teaching assignments while it builds an internal pipeline of candidates for future full-time faculty openings.
Further, the schools encourage visiting professors to work with the administrative teams and faculty on research projects and other programming. Personally, I worked with the Dean and other faculty on several projects, such as service learning projects and new program development. Ithas proven to be a rewarding experience.
Typically, there are other visiting professors with whom to work with at the university. This provides immediate value to each practitioner as best practices for classroom management and teaching approaches are shared and opportunities for networking are provided. Additionally, the visiting professor team-teaches with a full-time faculty—a beneficial arrangement for both students and faculty. I enjoyed this arrangement because it made it easier for the students to transition from one style of instruction to another. This exposure has strengthened my ability to teach multinational students. What I also learned was that even though the Grenadian culture is different from my own, the same standards of nursing practice and provision of quality patient care are the same.
Not all professors want to be committed to teaching at one university. Many appreciate variety in their teaching experiences. The opportunity to serve as a visiting professor fits that need. The immersion in new cultures and exposure to different professional perspectives is invaluable. Visiting professors have tremendous knowledge in relevant and contemporary topics and can share their experiences with the students to provide opportunities for learning and critical thinking. They can also build a sense of community in the learning environment between classroom work and what happens globally.
The visiting professor experience allowed me to teach for several semesters at St. George’s and online at other colleges while maintaining my businesses. My time in Grenada was both educational and delightful as I learned much about the culture of the Grenadians and had the opportunity to understand more about nursing practice in another country. I also met and learned from other professors who are from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the U.S. What I loved the most was that the university’s campus is located near the ocean. Every dayat lunchtime I would sit on a bench, daydream, and watch the waves of the ocean.
Contact the International Professor Exchange (www.professorexchange.com) to learn more. But before you accept an invitation, you should research the following: