Practice makes comfort

Group photo before the Farewell Reception on the Kasumi Campus of Hiroshima University, with the inaugural nursing banner.

Group photo before the Farewell Reception on the Kasumi Campus of Hiroshima University, with the inaugural nursing banner.

Over the past year, nurses and student nurses from around the world have gathered, collaborated and worked to develop a Disaster Nursing Workshop that took place last month in Hiroshima, Japan. The setting was a country that has seen —  as Patty Hale, JMU professor of nursing, writes below — “a disproportionate number of disasters.” Patty, along with Andrea Knopp, also a JMU professor of nursing, and nursing student Heather Lynne-Michelle Galang planned or participated in the workshop sponsored by the International Network of Universities. Nurses from different nations learned together how to best provide nursing care in disaster situations. Their preparation and practice will make comfort a reality.

As part of JMU’s annual International Week, we asked Patty, Andrea and Heather to write about their experiences. For today’s post, the professors talk about the program and how it all came together. On Wednesday, Heather’s post will offer her perspective as a student nurse.

Patty writes:

In March 2012, I left for Tokyo to take part in an amazing opportunity – meeting with nursing faculty from around the world to work together on a project of our making! Hiroshima University, one of the member institutions of the International Network of Universities, had received a grant from the Japanese government to support an international nursing work group. Six nursing faculty colleagues were there, representing the following INU institutions:  Malmo, Sweden; Tarragona, Spain; James Madison University, USA; Kyung He, South Korea; Hiroshima University; and Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. We gathered for two days to learn about one another’s nursing programs and institutions, and we committed to develop a workshop for nursing students from our institutions.

Patty Hale

Patty Hale

I returned to Japan in August, this time to Hiroshima, with the specific purpose of beginning collaborative work to develop a five-day Disaster Nursing Workshop to be held around the Peace Memorial Ceremony, commemorating the anniversary of the atomic bomb drop in Hiroshima. During this time we vetted several expert speakers from Japan on disaster management. Japan has had a disproportionate number of disasters, with the most recent being the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, which resulted in the release of radioactive materials at the Fukushima Power Plant.  Japanese health care workers have therefore had extensive experience with the trauma resulting from  disasters, including radiation exposure, chronic health needs including dialysis and other technology requirements, and food and shelter needs.

During this visit and continuing long-distance during the 2012-13 academic year the Nursing Work Group met via Skype approximately every three weeks to develop the Disaster Nursing Course for August 3-10, 2013. We all presented a portion of the workshop. We also wanted the students to be active participants in the learning process and to apply what they were learning. They would visit a housing complex built for atomic bomb survivors, the Motomachi Apartment Complex, and assess the building and surrounding community for needs in response to one of three disasters scenarios: terrorism, earthquake and pandemic. The students would work in groups to complete this simulated disaster experience. The course was complete and ready to go.

Unfortunately, about 10 days before I was to leave I had a family health concern that kept me from going to teach the actual course. It was disappointing not to see it implemented, but a colleague Dr. Andrea Knopp stepped in and went to Hiroshima to assist with facilitating one of the simulation groups.

Andrea writes:

Andrea Knopp

Andrea Knopp

Arrival at Hiroshima after 15 hours of flight time was accompanied by a stifling heat wave but that did not damper the enthusiasm of the students and facilitators of the INU meeting. Hiroshima University faculty welcomed us with the grace and hospitality that is so much a part of Japanese culture.

At the workshop, the week started with presentations in the mornings centered around health care systems from the participating countries and disaster nursing. The students were engaging and developed a rapport from the first day. Students were divided into three groups with each group having at least one graduate student and four to five students from Hiroshima. Each group was assigned a particular disaster scenario — an earthquake, a pandemic or an act of terrorism.

We toured the buildings of the Motomachi Apartment Complex to gather information and have a better idea of the challenges and assets of the site.  Over the course of the week the student groups were given an unfolding case of their event from which they were to present a PowerPoint on how they would manage their disaster at the Motomachi Apartment Complex based on what they learned in the lectures and the site visit.

The facilitators worked with the students during break out sessions to plan their disaster management and help them understand the material. The group work was hindered at the beginning due to language issues as all the course work and interactions were in English as common ground. After the first two days, however, the international students worked into a rhythm of discussion, planning and interpreting that was cohesive and inclusive.  Each student contributed a unique viewpoint from their own experiences and perception from the site.

The results were impressive in the creative scope of what the students presented but also in the camaraderie and comfort the students displayed during the final ceremony. From a facilitators viewpoint, the relationship building that occurred during the workshops was the true essence of the program. The relationships between the facilitators reflected the bond the students developed. Ideas were exchanged on future projects and possible student /faculty exchange between some of the professors who acted as the facilitators and lecturers.

I walked away from INU conference with a sense of the role nurses have in cutting edge planning in disaster situations as well as the strength of collaboration in our profession at a global level.

On Wednesday, we’ll run Heather’s post. Don’t miss her heartfelt story of change!


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

2 Responses to Practice makes comfort

  1. grahammb says:

    So glad! You’ll like Heather’s perspective. She goes even deeper into the power of such a gathering to create positive change.


  2. Fascinating stuff! I look forward to seeing Heather’s post.


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