Fulbright Takes Nurse to Lebanon

10-23-2009
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Judith Lambton, associate professor of nursing, at the American University of Beirut’s nursing school in Lebanon.

Walking through the streets of Beirut, Lebanon Judith Lambton, associate professor of nursing at the University of San Francisco, passed glimmering skyscrapers next to hollow edifices pocked by rocket-propelled grenades, a testament to the country’s violent history. On a nearby street corner a girl in a hajib peddled her Barbie bicycle. Surveying the menu at McDonald’s, her eyes settled on the McArabia Meal.

Lebanon is a country both ancient and modern, according to Lambton, who recently returned from there following a two-month stint with the Fulbright Specialist Program – established to promote linkages between U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at universities abroad.

“I was invited to develop the country’s first master’s degree in pediatrics and to establish a clinical simulation curriculum for the American University of Beirut’s nursing school,” said Lambton, the first USF nursing professor to win a Fulbright and the first to teach at AUB’s nursing school.

Working alongside her “amazingly hospitable” hosts at the teaching hospital, among them AUB’s nursing school director Huda Huijer Abu-Saad, Lambton surveyed faculty about their needs, observed nurses at the bedside, and spoke with students about what they were learning.

Lebanon, like much of the Middle East, faces a severe nursing shortage. This is compounded by two factors, the first being that children comprise one-third of the country’s population, the second being that nurses, once educated, tend to emigrate to higher paying jobs in the West.

“The problem of keeping nursing talent in the country is huge,” Lambton said. “It is hard for nurses not to be swayed by the thought of a life made easier by an advanced health care system found in the West.”

In a country where there is one doctor for every 170 patients and one nurse for every 1,600 patients, the average nursing tenure at AUB’s hospital, which established the first nursing program in the Middle East in 1905, is just three years.

Lambton’s work has as one of its primary objectives to provide advanced treatment to needy kids. “Children constitute a vulnerable population in health care management because they cannot often participate in providing a history of their illness, contribute to the assessment of intervention strategies, and, because of their physiology, are silent sentinels to emerging infectious diseases or environmental threats,” Lambton said.

But, the master’s in pediatric nursing and clinical simulation curriculum at AUB’s nursing school are also meant to increase the level of nursing experience at the hospital, as well as entice nursing students who are interested in pursuing advanced degrees and higher salaries.

“Keeping nurses in the country is key,” Lambton said.

The Fulbright exchange not only allowed her to share the notion of Jesuit social justice with Lebanese faculty and students, but also opened her eyes to the Arabic view of the world, “which is more layered and complex when looking beyond the first impression,” Lambton said.

In hopes of opening more eyes, she is now pursuing approaches to connecting faculty and nursing students at USF to those in Beirut via the Internet so that they can discuss commonalities and differences in their respective health care systems, Lambton said.

Written by Edward Carpenter »usfnews@usfca.edu