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Hopkins Collaboration Addresses South African Nursing Capacity

Posted: 8/25/2010

As South Africa suffers from little access to healthcare and a high rate of nurse migration, there are few nurses and even fewer nursing PhDs. Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) professor Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN, FAAN, is now spearheading a program designed to address those issues and build nursing capacity in the African nation.

Sharps' approach is to provide JHUSON faculty mentorship to South Africa's nursing PhD candidates with their research techniques, doctoral coursework, and dissertations so they can have the knowledge to instruct new nurses. This strategy will bolster the nursing capacity in South Africa from top to the bottom.

"We [the JHUSON faculty mentors] are preparing doctoral nurses who will teach in universities, nurses who will establish graduate and doctoral nursing education programs, nurses who will conduct research to inform health policy, and nurses who will be leaders in the health care system," Sharps says about the mentorship with South African doctoral students. "Ultimately we are helping to prepare more nurse leaders, researchers, and educators for the country."

Sharps herself currently co-mentors three scholars from two South African universities: the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town and North-West University in Mafikeng. The JHUSON collaboration with these South African universities is patterned on the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) Doctoral Program Partnership with JHUSON, a program funded by the China medical Board of New York, Inc., which helped to graduate the first Chinese nursing PhDs from Chinese universities.

As the Chair of the JHUSON Department of Community Public Health, Sharps aims to expand this university mentorship on both sides. She will match other JHUSON faculty experts with South African nursing PhD candidates. Though Sharps currently advises the South African students onsite at the JHUSON, she anticipates that the communication will continue through email when the students return to South Africa.

In addition to the mentor collaboration program, Sharps has worked with the deans at the South African universities to launch other collaboration initiatives. This past summer three JHUSON students in the Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Program studied at the North-West University in Mafikeng, South Africa. All received firsthand experience in how culture affects the production of scientific knowledge in South Africa.

Another example of Sharps' South African initiatives will begin as three South African doctoral students from the North-West University enroll in doctoral courses at JHUSON. They will work with JHUSON faculty mentors to develop their proposals and begin writing their dissertations. While the students are studying in the U.S., Sharps will help enrich the students' learning experience through trips related to each student's specialty focus.

"By mentoring and organizing the South African partnership, I have learned much about the nursing education models and research in the context of the South African culture and health care system," Sharps says. "And as always, there is the gratification that comes from supporting a student's learning and professional development."

Sharps anticipates that these partnerships with South African universities will not only continue, but also be an example for other international health collaborations. As the school's vision for global nursing capacity building grows, the new South African initiatives will serve as an example for future collaborations.