R e t u r n   t o   t a b l e   o f   c o n t e n t s

Dr. Rose Cannon uses a simulated
patient to demonstrate delivery for
exchange students from
Yonsei University College of Nursing.
 

Emory Nursing students prove that the path to leadership begins early on

Taking Root

By Pam Auchmutey

 

Rachel Shaw (center) shares an Emory nursing souvenir with nursing seniors Min Kyung Song (left) and In Young Cho at Yonsei University.

Kathy Markowski (L–R) serves as the faculty adviser to the Emory Student Nursing Association. Members include Kristin Eberl, president; Anna Hess, legislative director, and Laura Yoho, president of the Georgia Association of Nursing Students.

 

Opportunity knocks in interesting ways. For nursing senior Rachel Shaw, the path that brought her to Emory was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and the wrong place at the right time. Ultimately, both have enabled her to test her wings as a nursing leader.

The first instance happened when Shaw spent a semester studying in Kenya as an undergraduate student at Earlham College in Indiana.

“That experience changed my life,” says Shaw, who volunteered in a Kenyan hospital. “I had no idea that malaria was so devastating. The statistics never hit home until you live them. Working in a community in western Kenya was such an eye-opener. I knew that public health was the path that I wanted to go down.”

After graduating from Earlham, Shaw moved to Washington, DC, to work for a nonprofit organization. She also studied public health at a DC location run by Johns Hopkins. It was there that Shaw had her second awakening.

“I was in class one day when I realized that I didn’t have any sense of what the instructor was talking about as far as disease processes were concerned,” she recalls. “How can you write public health policy and change the lives of people and the nature of their health care without having a real sense of what they’re experiencing?”

That realization eventually brought Shaw to the School of Nursing, which has nurtured her interest in community health and the world at large. Shaw is the outgoing president of the Emory International Student Nursing Association (EISNA) and was one of the first two Emory students to participate in an academic exchange with the Yonsei University College of Nursing in South Korea.

To date, two groups of students from Yonsei have studied at Emory. Organized through the Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing, the exchange strengthens a longtime link with Yonsei. The late Dr. San Cho Chun, 66MN, led Yonsei’s nursing school as dean for many years. Emory nursing Dean Marla Salmon traveled to Yonsei last fall to deliver a lecture in Dr. Chun’s honor. Nurses from around the region attended.

A few months earlier, Shaw and Amy Brown, 02N, spent several weeks at Yonsei. They met with faculty and students and visited hospitals, clinics, schools, and other facilities to learn how South Korea’s health system works. “Immediately, it became clear to us that South Korea takes a much more preventive and promotional stance than the United States when it comes to health care,” says Shaw. “So much of their health care encompasses things like acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal remedies. It’s phenomenal what we learned.”

Shaw and Brown also spent time with a nurse practitioner who works and lives at a rural health clinic. “It was interesting to see traditional medicine and the holistic approach in play in this particular rural community,” says Shaw. “For all intents and purposes, the nurse practitioner is the town doctor. The government takes a number of steps to educate people to use nurse practitioners and clinics as resources.”

The experience taught Shaw some things about her own capabilities as well. “It definitely has helped prepare me for leadership later on,” she says. “By observing South Korea’s health care system, I learned so much more about our own and some of the essential changes we could make to better the lives of people.”

Back at Emory, Shaw began to think about providing international opportunities for other students. Because resources for international travel are limited, Shaw has focused on opening the doors to international nursing at home. For example, EISNA works with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which places refugees and educates them about life in the United States. EISNA recently conducted a clothing/item drive to provide items for the IRC’s store, which provides revenue for the organization. During their community health rotations, Emory nursing students have accompanied IRC counselors on home visits to discuss health concerns with refugee families.

Some day, Shaw hopes to pursue such interests on a global scale. “Before I hit that level, I want to become very capable as a clinician,” says Shaw. “Eventually, I would love to work with the United Nations or the World Health Organization. The fact that the School of Nursing has a focus in international health and offers the master’s and PhD programs is dynamic. My experiences have prompted me to think about health management and policy development as a career.”


An advocate for change
Last semester, as DeKalb County Commissioner Gale Walldorff addressed graduate nursing students in a health policy and financial resources class, she shared her perspective on what it takes to change the world. “Nothing happens unless you have an advocate to take your issue forward,” she told the students.

Members of the Emory Student Nursing Association (ESNA) know what she means. In addition to service projects, fund-raising, and increasing awareness about their school and profession, the students advocate change in nursing education and practice through legislative action. In October 2002, the Georgia Association of Nursing Students (GANS) adopted an ESNA resolution to improve the safety of hospitalized older adults through reducing the use of physical restraints. Authored by Emory nursing senior Anna Hess, the resolution was passed this spring at the National Student Nurses’ Association convention in Phoenix. Hess and other ESNA members were there, accompanied by faculty adviser Kathy Markowski.

Hess confesses that she had only a vague notion about the issues facing geriatric patients when she arrived at nursing school. That quickly changed after she listened to her professors, including Dr. Elizabeth Capezuti, a nationally known expert in improving the safety of hospital restraint use among elderly patients.

“It was one of those needs in a population that you wouldn’t consider until someone opened your eyes,” says Hess, who serves as legislative director of ESNA.

She also learned a great deal from ESNA’s previous legislative director, Stacy Armstrong, 02N. At the 2001 GANS convention, Armstrong proposed a foreign language prerequisite for baccalaureate nursing students. The ESNA proposal was defeated.

“You learn a lot from the setbacks,” says Hess, who attended that convention. “There are lessons to be learned in the way legislation is presented at the state convention. You know to make your argument that much stronger next time.”

After she graduates this spring, Hess will begin an emergency and critical care internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. With time, she hopes to become a geriatric nurse practitioner. No matter what path she takes, Hess knows she has the power to shape her profession.

“The changes you hope to see in clinical practice can only come about if you become involved. That first step has to be taken.”

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