January 24, 2011

Nursing extends its outreach

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, which already has strong local and international ties, wants to extend beyond its walls even further.

In September 2010, the school launched the Center for Global Nursing to apply worldwide Johns Hopkins expertise in nursing education, practice, research and related policy. Closer to home, the school’s Community Outreach Program continues to be a big draw for students, and in the past two years, the number of community project sites has skyrocketed.

To help strengthen and grow these and related efforts, the School of Nursing recently appointed Phyllis Sharps to the new post of associate dean for community and global programs. Sharps, who will continue to serve as chair of the Department of Community and Public Health until July, began her tenure as associate dean on Jan. 1.

“Collaborations within our community are just as vital as our partnerships globally, and Phyllis has a demonstrated, successful track record for both,” said Dean Martha Hill in making the announcement. “We now have a position that will oversee the school’s outreach at home and abroad while constantly exploring innovative ways to strengthen our existing partnerships.”

In her new role, Sharps will oversee the School of Nursing’s community programs, its wellness centers and the Center for Global Nursing, which works with faculty and is administratively responsible for the school’s relationship with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, student study abroad programs, school-school collaborations, and special academic consulting and advising initiatives, such as those with NewGiza University in Egypt and a recently announced endeavor in Malaysia.

Sharps said that she is honored to lead the school’s bold new initiative to grow its community and global projects. She said that in today’s global environment, Johns Hopkins needs to widen its scope.

“We must prepare our students to work in a variety of settings and be diverse in their experience,” Sharps said. “Many students come here specifically for our community and global programs.”

In terms of global efforts, Sharps said that she would work to expand and enhance the school’s international academic partnerships.

In November, the school announced a memorandum of understanding with NewGiza University to consult with the Egyptian institution on the establishment of the NewGiza University School of Nursing. The memorandum is the first step toward initial and sustained consultation and collaboration to create a center of excellence in nursing for the region. Specifically, Johns Hopkins will assist in the recruitment of the NewGiza University School of Nursing’s founding dean and faculty, and advise on other aspects of the school’s development, including academics, administrative policies, and procedures and finances. Future consultations could include collaborative academic and research activities such as joint seminars, workshops, publications and instruction.

Also in November, School of Nursing leadership joined other members of Johns Hopkins for the signing in Malaysia of a landmark agreement to develop the country’s first medical school, an institution in Kuala Lumpur with a four-year Western curriculum. Under the agreement, Johns Hopkins will assist with the development of every major aspect of the new venture, including medical and nursing education programs, clinical affairs, and campus design and facilities planning.

As part of these and other agreements, the School of Nursing will send students on study abroad projects and will welcome students from other countries to the school’s campus in Baltimore.

“Having students come here enriches us and broadens the global exposure for our students who, for whatever reason, can’t participate in our international programs,” Sharps said. “In my new role, I certainly want to foster strong academic partnerships with institutions in Asia, Africa and around the world.”

Sharps said that you don’t have to go to Uganda, however, to practice nursing skills. The needs are great here in the school’s backyard, she said, and nursing students are eager to assist.

In the current academic year, the number of students gaining hands-on learning experiences in Baltimore City community outreach projects increased by more than 44 percent from the previous year. The number of community outreach sites has also grown significantly, from 40 in 2009 to a new high of 60. These sites include free clinics, school and neighborhood health programs, and community-based organizations.

The school’s Community Outreach Program, which was established in 1991 as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Fellows Program, is today open to all undergraduate students for academic credit. Many of the Johns Hopkins nurse-led programs are components of the school’s East Baltimore Community Nursing Centers and include the Lillian Wald Community Nursing Center for women, infants and children; a health suite in the House of Ruth, Maryland, a domestic-violence shelter; and the Isaiah Wellness Center in Apostolic Towers, a senior citizen residency complex.

“We want to grow and make these services stronger and reach even more people,” Sharps said. “What we love about these projects is that they provide gap services for people, and it gets them into health programs. We are No. 2 in public health nursing education in the nation. That is why students come here, to apply what we are learning in our own community.”

As an expert in maternal and child health nursing, Sharps works at the forefront of community and public health nursing and at the interface of mental and physical health. In addition to serving as department chair, she is director of three health and wellness centers operated by the school.

For more on the Center for Global Nursing, go to www.son.jhmi.edu/areas_of_
excellence/global/center. For more on the school’s efforts in community and public health, go to www.nursing.jhu.edu/areas_of_excellence/local.

Jonathan Eichberger of the School of Nursing contributed to this article.