Sunday, 8 May 2011

EmpNURS, Seeing beyond the Panopticon, and some Blue Sky


I spent much of yesterday travelling back from the Czech Republic. The journey took over 12 hours. I had been in Bruno, (known as the small Prague) since Wednesday night for what was the second workshop of the EmpNURS project. This is an EU funded project which aims to advance the empowerment of nursing as a profession through the development of high quality mentorship. The project is being carried out by 11 partner organizations from the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, the Netherlands and the UK. The Project Manager for this study is my long time friend and colleague Mikko. We have known each other for some 15 years and share both a common history and background and a desire to find ways of better preparing individuals for nursing practice.

Over the last 15 years Mikko and I have become increasingly interested (and a little concerned) over what appears to be some big variations in the way nurses  are being educated across Europe. And this appears to be the case, despite the Bologna Agreement which sought to harmonise higher educational systems across Europe. We have written about our concerns, both with each other and with colleagues from other parts of Europe. It was from this work we went on to develop the EmpNURS Project.

The EmpNURS project is aimed at benefiting nurse educators, nurse students and qualified nurses across Europe. The project builds on our previous work and is focused around approaches to mentorship. With my colleague (from our School) Karen, I am undertaking an impact evaluation of the EmpNURS project which among other things, will assess the level of cooperation between health care service providers and educational institutions such as University’s in developing and implementing a mentorship programme. Already we are seeing that despite a common desire to achieve such a programme, there are cultural, organisational and political factors that challenge this work. So it will be an interesting couple of years work!

This week’s workshop was facilitated by my very good friend and colleague Andrea – and her hospitality was brilliant and so helpful for all of us. One of the activities Andrea arranged for us was a visit to the local health care services. These were situated on the same campus as the University – which was new, brash, modern and a huge testament to the investment the Czech government is making in its higher education system. However, when we walked into the main entrance of the hospital, we were confronted with a row of archaic trolleys.

What was unknown to us at the time was the fact that on the other side of an adjoining door was a state of the art major trauma centre – and when we were able to visit this centre I found it truly impressive in terms of not only the available equipment, but also the approach of the staff who worked there. Likewise, on visiting the ICU I found the highest possible care being provided to some very ill patients in a way that really demonstrated how important it is to balance the technical with the humanistic in using our skills and knowledge as nurses.

I found the entrance to the School at the University very interesting. It was ‘guarded’ by a modern example of what Jeremy Bentham (the philosopher and social theorist) described as a ‘panopticon’. This observational device was a somewhat a somewhat sinister presence in the entry foyer of the building. However, once one got past this silent sentry, the rest of the building was encouragingly welcome.

And the blue sky. Well my wonderful PA Jennie, who absolutely ensures everything I need is sorted for these trips, included a five day weather forecast for the Czech Republic in my briefing papers – this forecast showed wind, rain and cold temperatures. However, the reality in Bruno was blue skies, wall to wall sunshine and a barmy heat. The great weather contributed wonderfully to what was a productive and informative three day workshop. Back here in the UK writing this blog this morning, the sky is grey and its raining!