13 October 2016

This could be Rotterdam ...

GENOA, Italy—The well-known British pop band The Beautiful South played a song titled “Rotterdam,” the chorus of which observes, “This could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome …” It felt like that for me these past two weeks because, following Slovenia, I have been in Rotterdam and Genoa. Telling you this also allows me to note that, while many readers of “Hanging smart” will know the song, they may not know that The Beautiful South comes from my home town of Hull and evolved from an equally famous band The Housemartins. So, after that trip down musical memory lane …

I was in Rotterdam last week for the 5th European Nursing Congress. The theme of these meetings is always care of older people, and the congress, held over four days, provided a series of keynotes and parallel sessions on research and practice related to gerontological nursing. The opening ceremony was attended by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. One of the keynote speakers was my good friend and colleague Li-Chan Lin, PhD, RN, of National Yang Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan. Lin has pioneered the use of the Montessori method and spaced retrieval to help older people with dementia eat. I had the privilege of co-authoring an article reporting the first randomised controlled trial using these methods. Lin also spent six months with me at the University of Sheffield as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor, and her invitation for me to visit her in Taiwan in 2004 led to an unbroken stream of annual visits to Taiwan.

My own contribution to the Rotterdam proceedings was a workshop titled “Four easy steps to publishing your manuscript,” which was well attended. The Journal of Advanced Nursing provided a special issue for the conference abstracts, and it was good to see each of the 1,000 delegates holding a copy of the journal. Six years ago, at the previous congress, the abstracts were published in a special issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing, which I then edited.

After one day at home to remind the family of my existence, I went to Genoa, Italy for a week of activities as a visiting professor (docenti) at the University of Genoa. In Rotterdam, I had met Julita Sansoni, PhD, RN, associate professor at Sapienza University of Rome, and illustrating the cliché “It’s a small world,” she was here in Genoa this week, and we had dinner together.

Loredana Sasso
Excitement is growing in the nursing department here because, next week, Loredana Sasso, MSN, MedSc, RN, will be inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in Washington, D.C. Sasso is the first Italian nurse to be inducted, and I am very proud to be her co-sponsor, along with my colleague Mark Hayter, PhD, RN, FAAN, (also a docenti in Genoa). I will be there with Mrs. Watson and a delegation of 14 Italians cheering on this great pioneer of Italian nursing. Pictures and news from the academy meeting will feature in my next entry.

Cheers! In Genoa with (l-r) Milko Zanini, Giuseppe Aleo,
and Mark Hayter.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

30 September 2016

“Hanging Smart: The Movie” and Slovenia

VIENNA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Austria—Many wonder about the title of this blog. Maybe you're one of them. It’s a climbing term, and I have made a short video titled “Hanging Smart: The Movie” to help explain. Warning: This is not for the fainthearted. Yours Truly in mortal danger may be more than you can cope with.

I have just been in Slovenia—essentially—for the first time. I say that because Mrs. Watson and I crossed the Italian-Slovenian border at Trieste several years ago to have dinner with an Italian colleague, but we were there and back in the same evening. This time, I spent a week at the University of Maribor in the Faculty of Health Sciences providing workshops on writing for publication. I am prone to falling in love with the last new place I visit, and it has happened again. Slovenia is a wonderful place.

This was the first country to break away about 25 years ago from the former Yugoslavia, and it did so peacefully with only a few border skirmishes and a handful of unfortunate deaths. They continue to have border disputes with neighbouring Croatia, but, to date, these have been conducted without gunfire. 

View over the river in the small historical town of Ptuj,
pronouned pa-tuey.

Some here still hanker back to the days of communism when everyone had a job, but they need to look around them. With the exception of North Korea, the military-industrial complex that was the basis of the Soviet bloc economy has proved untenable. Even where the ideology remains—in Russia, China, and Cuba, for example—the economic benefits of personal choice, financial reward, and movement across borders have prevailed.

The scenery is superb, the food a delight, and the hospitality overwhelming. Nursing at Maribor, under the leadership of Dean Majda Panjkihar, PhD, RN, is impressive. They have just established the first PhD programme for nurses in Slovenia and have an intake of five students. While I was there, Brendan McCormack, PhD, RN, FRCN, head of nursing at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, gave his inaugural professorial lecture on his field of person-centred care. It was an inspiring event. Over the course of the week, he and I sampled a wide range of local alcoholic beverages—colleagues, someone has to make these sacrifices—and found we had almost identical likes and dislikes about modern nursing in the UK.

McCormack is appointed professor
at the University of Maribor
McCormack and I have often found ourselves on opposite sides of many arguments, and I am sure that will not change. We come from very different academic backgrounds and philosophical positions. Where he may refer to releasing creative energy, I am more likely to regard that as thermodynamically impossible. It’s a case of flamboyant creativity versus plodding objectivity, but we have decided to inflict our collective view on the public. Watch this space for a link to our collective and—potentially—career-ending editorial.

Homeward bound
I write this at Vienna International Airport, for me a first, as I have never been in Austria before. The drive from Maribor is two and a half hours at speeds unimaginable—legally—in the United Kingdom or United States. I am home for the weekend and then go to Rotterdam to attend a conference, about which I will report in these pages.

I have managed to buy two tickets for a home game over the weekend between Hull City Football Club and Chelsea Football Club—football as in soccer. My home team is again part of the English Premier League, so far with mixed results, some of which I have witnessed. We have never beaten Chelsea, and I don’t expect we will this time, but, as the saying goes, it gets me out of the house.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

05 September 2016

How many shopping days?

HULL, United Kingdom—This entry finds me after significant breaks from blogging—at least in “Hanging Smart”—and travel. I take the title of this post from the UK obsession this time of year, when summer is ending and people are looking forward to their next major holiday, Christmas—especially the constant reminders from the retail sector of how many shopping days and weekends we have left in our spending spree.

Over summer, the long-suffering Mrs. Watson insisted we take a break, and that led to a few days in London doing things we never did when we lived there many years ago. On the scholarly side of things, two major research-grant proposals have been submitted to potential funders, and several manuscripts have been revised and resubmitted to journals.

We are now at that time in the academic year when our modules have to be revised for the coming semester and dissertations from final-year students marked. People often ask if, with all my travelling, I actually teach and mark students’ work. The answer is yes. I must admit that my incredible colleagues at Hull carry a heavier load than I of these things and, without their support, I could not maintain my international work. However, I like to think I am still engaged with students at all programme levels.

Since my last entry, I have been to Oxford, UK, to attend the management team meeting of Journal of Advanced Nursing. This is the best two days of the year in terms of discussion and decision-making, and I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to work with a superb publishing team at Wiley—I have known and worked with at least one of its members for 25 years—and a highly professional team of editors.

Immediately prior to that meeting, I attended the 2016 meeting of INANE (International Academy of Nursing Editors) at the headquarters of the Royal College of Nursing in London. There I had the privilege of listening to Ben Goldacre, MB, BS, MA, author of Bad Science (the book and the blog), Bad Pharma, and now I Think You’ll Find it’s a Bit More Complicated Than That. He signed a copy for me. Goldacre initiated the AllTrials campaign, which aims for total transparency in reporting clinical trials. I reflect on this meeting and what he had to say in a post titled “Being Ben Goldacre” in my blog “Publishing Standards.”

Eric Chan addresses colleagues at
Napier University on global health.
The break from travel ended last week. I have just returned from Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, which has launched a new School of Health and Social Care. The launch event took place over two days and was attended by colleagues from Hong Kong and Singapore. Of those colleagues, I was especially pleased to see my good friend Eric Chan, MSc, RN, dean of Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Hong Kong, former deputy chief nurse of the Hong Kong Health Authority, and one of the founding members of GAPFON (Global Advisory Panel on the Future of Nursing & Midwifery).

I suppose I ought to be counting the time to Christmas by air miles and how many weekends I will actually spend at home. This week, I’m spending three days at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, at the 2016 NET (Nurse Education Tomorrow) conference where I am providing early-morning consultation sessions on writing for publication.

Looking further ahead, between now and the end of the year, in addition to another visit to Edinburgh and at least three to London, I will make two visits to Spain (Madrid and Pamplona); one to Maribor, Slovenia; one to Rotterdam, Netherlands; and one to Istanbul, Turkey. I will also visit Washington, D.C. for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Nursing. A visit to Egypt is also being arranged but is not yet finalised. I am sure these visits will have their high points and their low points. Either way, you’ll read all about them here.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

20 July 2016

Evidence in support of baccalaureate nurses stacks up

HONG KONG, SAR, China—Less than a week after leaving Hong Kong, I was back, this time for a few days with my son—his first visit to Hong Kong—on the way to Australia. It is easy to make an impression on people with Hong Kong: the world’s highest bar (the 118th floor Ozone), possibly the best high-level restaurant in the world (the incomparable Felix restaurant), and searing hot temperatures.

The Conversation
One of the best things to come out of Australia in recent years is The Conversation. This is an online newspaper for which only academics may write. Supported financially by CommBank and most universities, The Conversation now exists in three other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. The articles take the form of short, blog-like entries, and individuals have to “pitch” pieces to the editors. After several failed efforts at pitching, I finally had one accepted on the basis of a study that I co-authored, which was published in Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Even for an experienced writer and editor, it was an instructive process. Once the pitch was accepted, I was given very specific instructions on how to write the piece and was given 48 hours to produce 700 words. The house style aims for the reading level of a 16-year-old with short sentences, no polysyllabic words (i.e. no “big” ones—sorry, couldn’t resist that), main points presented in the opening, and not ending with “More research is needed.” I am tempted to introduce the same style for Journal of Advanced Nursing. It works!

My article was titled “You’re more likely to survive hospital if your nurse has a degree.” The study was led by Richard Gray, PhD, RN, of the Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar. Evidence that baccalaureate nurses save more lives is already available from the work of Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FRCN, FAAN, of the University of Pennsylvania and the RN4CAST study, and our study takes this work forward.

In Qatar, each incident of nursing care is recorded electronically, which means the nurse’s name is recorded. From that, we were able to see whether the nurse is a baccalaureate graduate. We were then able to calculate the extent to which patients received care from baccalaureate—as opposed to diplomate—nurses. The results show that when baccalaureate nurses deliver care, patients are less likely to die. As I write, less than two weeks after publication, my article has had more than 9,000 reads, and its Altmetrics score is currently 70.

Meantime, in Australia
I am making my annual visit to Western Sydney University (until recently called University of Western Sydney) as adjunct professor and also visiting my relatives in Brisbane. My son Joseph is here with me, and my daughter Lucy, an RN in the British Army, has also been here for a few weeks. We had a good family reunion.

Looking ahead to travel plans for the rest of the year, I see that Turkey is on my calendar for December. I have been invited to speak at a conference, and my wife will accompany me for our wedding anniversary. For that reason and because I have friends and colleagues in Turkey, I hope events following the failed military coup have settled down. I have been in contact with a very good nursing colleague who says they are all “stressed and depressed” at the present situation. Once again, I find that problems in another part of the world help put my own problems into perspective.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

17 June 2016

Hong Kong: The same but different

HONG KONG, SAR, China—Five days ago, less than a week after transferring through Hong Kong International Airport, I was back, jet-lagged. Although I have been through the airport 10 times since my last visit, this was the first time I had stepped out of the airport in 12 months.

I am back in Hong Kong to sit on the University Grants Council (UGC) Humanities and Social Sciences Sub-Panel. Under excellent chairing by Cindy Fan, PhD, vice provost for international studies and global engagement, UCLA Department of Geography, we disbursed approximately HK$ 50 million for research to eight universities in the Special Administrative Region. I am halfway through a six-year term (maximum), which guarantees me three more annual visits to Hong Kong.

We also made a UGC advisory visit to the University of Hong Kong. My assignment was to meet with the dean and colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine, which includes the School of Nursing. The University of Hong Kong is the oldest in Hong Kong and, for 50 years, its only university. Currently, the president and vice-chancellor is Peter Mathieson, a nephrologist from the United Kingdom. En route to a meeting, he introduced himself to me in the elevator, and I was able to tell him I was from the University of Hull. The University Grants Council, under which the Research Grants Council (RGC) sits, hosted an excellent banquet on the final working day.

Friends, old and very new
Graeme and Maggie Smith with Nathaniel
Outside of meetings, I had dinners with a series of old friends and colleagues, including Eric Chan, MBA, RN, dean of Caritas Institute of Higher Education and member of GAPFON. I extended my stay to attend a 100 Days celebration for Nathaniel Smith, 100-day old son of my good friends Graeme Smith, PhD, RN, of Edinburgh Napier University (UK) and his wife Maggie. I attended their wedding here six years ago. This was my first meeting with Nathaniel, and I think I made quite an impression.

The weather is always a topic of conversation in Hong Kong, something I think the locals inherited from the days of British colonisation. It’s been wet, humid, and increasingly hot over the course of the past week. That’s the same as usual, but during my 12-month absence a new high-rise building has risen on the Kowloon side of the harbour. Also, Louis’s Steakhouse, Hong Kong’s oldest and one of my favourite places to eat, has closed, priced out of business by rising rents in the Wan Chai district. I am lucky this year, because I will be back in Hong Kong in early July en route to Australia. I am taking my son Joseph, and we are meeting my daughter Lucy. Some of that will feature in my next entry.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

06 June 2016

China: Hot food and hot weather

LUZHOU, Sichuan Province, China—I have been in China this week, making my third visit to what is currently known as The Affiliated Hospital of Southwest Medical University. On each visit, the name has changed—on one hand, as the status of the institution has risen, and, on the other hand, as objections from elsewhere in the province have risen about the name that is being used. Apparently, there are objections to the current name, and it may well change again before I return. Whatever the name, the hospital I visit here is in the same place: Luzhou, China, on the banks of the mighty Yangtze River.

Ostensibly, my visit here is to deliver a lecture at an international conference on transitional care. My topic? Telemonitoring of older people. When asked by other presenters if I am an expert on the subject, my reply was: “Well, I am now!” I have to admit to only a passing acquaintance with telehealth in any of its varieties, and there is much greater expertise available on the topic at my university. But I am the visiting professor here, and I am expected to know everything.

Yours Truly with Pulon Chang, Yang-Ming University,
Taipei, Taiwan; Frances Wong, Hong Kong Polytechnic

University; and Du Yihua, president, The Affiliated Hospital 
of Southwest Medical University, Luzhou, Sichuan, China.
I enjoyed reading about telehealth and telemonitoring and, with the help of my old friend and interpreter Danial Liu, I managed to deliver my session. I am also very grateful to David Barrett, PhD, RN, senior lecturer on my faculty at the University of Hull, for some PowerPoint slides based on his recent research. Otherwise and more significantly, I am here to continue collaboration between the hospital and my university. We have already graduated one doctoral student, and we plan to have academic visitors and additional doctoral students.

About the food
Guess who.
Food was plentiful and spicy as ever. My hosts outdid themselves one night when we visited a very traditional restaurant. My advice: If you have doubts about spicy food, avoid anything labelled “traditional.” Not for the first time in Luzhou, I was rendered speechless by some of the food, which combines the heat of chillies and the local specialty spice, which I now know is colloquially called “tip of the tongue,” as it renders the tip of your tongue, lips, and inner cheeks numb. You can’t speak, and neither should you, until the effect passes. The only known antidote is cold beer, also plentiful. I ran on the banks of the Yangtze River again, but the weather was too hot for anything very serious.

Finally, after some procrastination, I returned to the climbing wall, my first visit in nearly 10 months. I really enjoyed my half hour (all I could manage) but have been unable to return due to a severe shortage of skin on my fingers, which are mostly healed now. I’m ready for a second visit soon.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be published.

12 May 2016

If it's Wednesday, I must be in Spain!

RIYADH, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—I’ve been mostly confined to Europe recently, but that’s not a complaint. In fact, it has been pleasant to take short flights for a change, and those flights—and two rail journeys—have taken me to Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Madrid, and Genoa. This has given me a respite from the medium to long hauls that started with Qatar and Saudi Arabia (reported here), followed in quick succession with trips to China, Hong Kong, and Australia, all with return flights to the UK.

I take every chance I can to visit Edinburgh. My recent trip was to address a conference of doctoral students and staff members on using social media to promote research (click here for podcast). In doing so, I mentioned this blog. In fact, on my travels I meet a great many people who read “Hanging smart.”

The conference was held at Edinburgh Napier University, and I used the opportunity to meet my oldest school friend—of 55 years standing—for dinner. On the way to meet him, a colleague from Pamplona, Spain contacted me to ask what I knew of Nan Shepherd. My friend in Spain is interested in all things Celtic, and he knew I came from the same area of Scotland as Shepherd: Royal Deeside. That morning Shepherd, a writer of novels and poems, was featured in the news as only the second woman—the first being Florence Nightingale—to have her image on a UK bank note and the first woman featured on a Scottish bank note. (Scottish banks have always had their own bank notes.)

“Where’s this going?” I hear you ask. My host and old school friend is the “honorary” grandson of Nan Shepherd, his mother having been brought up by her, and his brother Erlend Clouston (former journalist and hotelier extraordinaire) is Nan Shepherd’s literary executor. Later, on this European journey, I had dinner with my Celtic colleague in Pamplona and was able to recount this extraordinary coincidence.

Belfast and Manchester
My visit to Belfast was to examine the thesis of a doctoral student at Queen’s University Belfast. I felt very sorry for the student as my flight was delayed two hours, and I doubted I would make it. I took the flight, conducted the examination with both eyes on my watch, and was back at Belfast City Airport approximately 90 minutes after arriving, only to suffer another delay of nearly one hour.

In the meantime, I was speaking on my phone at every opportunity to the Saudi Health Office in London about my visa for the next visit, and they were doubtful if they could get it to me within a week. The problem was, I needed my passport within the week for a visit to Spain. At the last minute, and at great inconvenience to my contact there, the visa was obtained. Sometimes, I wonder if the stress is worth it. The day after my return from Belfast, I was in Manchester to address the Saudi Association in the UK on “Writing your thesis: Chapter by chapter” and “The four rules of writing your thesis” (both available as podcasts).

About to address nursing alumni
at the University of Navarra.
I was pleased to complete, before leaving the UK again for a few days in Spain, one major piece of work for our associate dean for learning and teaching and also to make significant progress with a research grant proposal. I flew to Madrid to address alumni of the University of Navarra School of Nursing, Pamplona campus, on “'Keeping the science in nursing,” and then I was off by train to Pamplona in the north of Spain, made famous by Ernest Hemingway for its running of the bulls. Although I had been in Spain recently, many years had passed since visiting either Madrid or Pamplona.

With former doctoral students Christina Oroviocoicoechea,
Silvia Corchon, and Ana Carvajal at the University of Navarra.
Madrid and the University of Navarra, which was established by the Roman Catholic organisation Opus Dei, hold a special place in my academic career. It was there, in 1991 when I was at the University of Edinburgh, that we had an exchange programme for staff and my international career began. It was there that I first lectured through translators, occupied a desk in a university outside the UK, spent prolonged periods (other than military service) away from my family, and began to see the potential of international work.

I have had great success with four doctoral students from Pamplona who studied with me in the UK, three of whom are now good colleagues (one decreased, sadly), and I have established strong professional and family links. My oldest daughter Hannah came here with me when she was 8 years old. She made two other family-exchange visits and then returned in the final year of her nursing diploma to work in critical care for a month, which led to her securing a job in critical care in the UK. Hannah has remained in critical care and is on the verge of qualifying as an advanced nurse practitioner.

We also have additional family ties here in that another of my colleagues and his wife are godparents to my son Joseph. My visit to Pamplona was to address colleagues on writing and publishing in impact-factor English nursing journals (podcast), in addition to attending a doctoral student examination and holding other meetings with faculty members in the School of Nursing.

I returned to the University of Genova in Genoa on the Ligurian coast of Italy. One of the hazards here is that, whereas Spanish women greet you with two kisses, right cheek first, in Italy they greet you with two kisses, left cheek first. Get it wrong, and a nasty head butt or a clash of spectacles can easily take place. This visit was to make further progress on some research work, establish a new project, and continue working on publications with doctoral students. I also managed a 10-mile run on my final morning.

Middle East
Passing through the UK, I transferred from London Gatwick to London Heathrow at the weekend and proceeded to Doha in Qatar for lunch with Richard Gray, PhD, RN, of Hamad Medical Corporation before flying on to Riyadh to deliver on Monday two papers at the nursing stream of the Saudi Health 2016 Conference. Tomorrow, I meet with colleagues at King Saud University and then fly home via Doha.

Between trips to Spain and Italy, I spent one day at home and took part in the Beverley 10k race. It was not my best effort and, for the UK, it was hot (20 Celcius, 68 Fahrenheit). I have had difficulty finding the time and the right places to do the sort of fast training you need for races. However, with my youngest son injured at the moment, at least I was the fastest Watson at 51:05. My ambition to beat 45 minutes will have to wait for another race.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

20 April 2016

Saudi Arabia, Part 3

RIYADH, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—This is the end of my Saudi Arabia trilogy, although an addendum will be posted in May when I come back to speak at a conference. (I suppose I could identify the now four-part series as a tetralogy or quadrilogy.) My visit to Jeddah was over too quickly. For the first three days back in Riyadh, with teaching and other presentations from early morning until late afternoon, I barely had time to think. Now, I have two days to reflect and clear up loose ends before I return to the UK.

Presentation time with Juliana D'Sa and
Raeid A. Faqehi.
My first day back in Riyadh was spent partly in the College of Nursing (male) with Master in Nursing students and partly in the Medical College, where I gave a lecture about detecting similarity in manuscripts (available on podcast). The next day was spent at the leading hospital in Riyadh, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSH), teaching on writing for publication and evidence-based practice. That day was hosted by Marinha Macedo, RN, nursing research senior specialist. By coincidence, I met her counterpart, Gillian Sedgewick, RN, at the Jeddah King Faisal hospital on the weekend. Both KFSHs are Magnet hospitals, the first in the Middle East. The third day was spent teaching at the General Directorate of Health Affairs, Riyadh on research and publishing. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, but I was glad when it ended, as I was exhausted.

Jeddah memories: Yours Truly with, l-r, Wafaa
Al-Johani, Shadia Abdullah Hassan Yousuf,
Hannah Erfan Banjar, and Ahlam Eidah Al-Zharani.
The day finished back at the Ritz Carlton at a dinner hosted by my former University of Sheffield student, Mansour Al-Yami, PhD, RN, now general director, training and scholarship, at the Saudi Ministry of Health, along with several colleagues from the Saudi Ministry of Health. You know you’re a frequent visitor to a place when you get tapped on the shoulder and turn round to see someone you know. Mustafa Bodrick, PhD, RN, of King Saud bin Abdulaziz University (blog passim) was also dining, and he introduced me to Gwen Sherwood, PhD, RN, FAAN, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with whom I will be dining tonight. Leaving the Ritz, I almost bumped—literally—into Joseph Westphal, U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Any closer, and I think the security detail would have “taken me out.” I wonder if he was making arrangements for U.S. President Obama, who arrives today.

Reflections on Saudi Arabia
I have mentioned before in this blog that I am often asked about my safety when travelling to the Middle East. When I ask people to specify more precisely what they mean—I understand the question but am tired of it—they never can. There is an association in people’s minds between Arabs and terrorists. The association is understandable, given press portrayal of the situation in some parts of the region. The same kind of association applied to Northern Ireland for a prolonged period, now euphemistically referred to as “the troubles.”

However, I have also noted a frequent question here—almost daily—in my meetings about my impressions of Saudi Arabia. My answer depends on the question. If I am asked, “Do I like Saudi Arabia?” I find it hard to say yes, simply due to the visual impact of women peeping out over niqabs, an image I find hard to accept. However, while the positional disparity of men and women runs deep in Saudi society, I realise this cannot be a barrier to cooperation and collaboration. I find the women charming, self-deprecating, funny, and easy to work with. This is not my country, and I am a guest.

On the other hand, I was asked if my view of Saudi Arabia was positive or negative, and I replied without hesitation that it is positive. To someone from the West, the intrusive nature of religion is alien. However, I have been coming here since 1991, albeit with a significant gap in time, and things are changing. This is a highly developed society with the best hospitality and the most respectful people I have ever met. As I have said before, we turn our backs on the Middle East at our peril.

Running has not been possible here, as there is not enough pavement to accommodate it in the part of Riyadh where I have been staying, so it has been the treadmill for two weeks. My various injuries are starting to resolve, and I can do a full-length pull-up without screaming. This indicates that, if I continue to improve, I should be able to start climbing again.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

15 April 2016

Saudi Arabia, Part 2

JEDDAH, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—Between “Saudi Arabia, Part 1,” posted 31 March, and this entry, I have been home to Hull, visited Dublin for one night to give a lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, was in Edinburgh for three nights, and now I have been in Riyadh for a week. This post comes from the Crowne Plaza Jeddah, a 90-minute flight from Riyadh, where I have retreated for the weekend (Friday and Saturday).

My Facebook memory told me this morning that it is, to the day, exactly one year since I was last here. I need this break, because it has been a hectic week with teaching, preparation for teaching, and meetings. I spent a day at the Female Student Campus of King Saud University holding consultations and teaching students who are pursuing their master’s degree in nursing. I visited King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre to arrange for my day of teaching there next week, and one evening I visited the British ambassador's residence for a function organised by another UK university, the University of Dundee, where I know colleagues well. A farcical taxi journey caused me to miss the address by British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, His Excellency Simon Collis, CMG, but I caught talks given by the Dundee staff.

Janice Rattray, University of Dundee, and
Ahmad Aboshaiqah, King Saud University.
I was very pleased to see Janice Rattray, PhD, RN, who is also working here this week. The last time I met her was a year ago in the first-class lounge of King Khalid Airport, Riyadh when we were both leaving Saudi Arabia. I also had lunch with her next day in the sumptuous Ritz Carlton hotel.

The journey to the British embassy did not go well from the start. My driver was unavailable, so the hotel staff summoned a taxi. It was clear from the outset that the cabbie had no idea where the British embassy was, nor did he speak English. When getting into the taxi, however, my thought was, “How bad can this be?” Well, it got bad. He drove to the diplomatic area as directed, I think, by the hotel staff, and tried to drop me off at a British school. I had the upper hand, of course, as I still had the 50 Saudi riyal, the maximum taxi fare, in my pocket.

We proceeded to do a tour of the embassies, and when I spotted the Union Jack on a sign, I thought I was safe, but it transpired—thanks to a Dutch gentleman who was trying to hail a taxi outside the Belgian embassy—that this was not the side of the compound where the British ambassador lived. My poor taxi driver was almost as stressed as me and refused to move, even after instructions in Arabic from the guard at the Belgian embassy who, I’m sure, was watching the commotion with amusement. I goaded the driver to move, but he wouldn’t.

I was standing outside the car when another drew up beside us to ask the Dutch gentleman directions to the British embassy. The occupants were two ladies I had met last year, and they recognised me. “Dr. Roger,” they shouted. I did not recognise them, however, as they were wearing traditional Saudi female attire. I paid off my driver, invited the Dutch gentleman to that taxi—he declined—and I joined the ladies in their taxi. The story does not end there, but it would take too long to describe every detail of our two tours round the diplomatic area with me crying, “Stop!” when I correctly identified the proper drop-off point—to no avail the first time, but successfully the second time.

James Smith, founding editor,
Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Meantime, turning the clock back a few days, I was in Edinburgh to attend the UK’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) International Nursing Research Conference 2016, which celebrated 100 years of the RCN, 60 years of academic nursing at the University of Edinburgh, and 40 years of Journal of Advanced Nursing. I was there to interview James P. Smith, DLitt (honoris causa), OBE, founding editor of the journal, and Alison Tierney, PhD, FRCN, CBE, former editor-in-chief. I also entertained them, along with former editor Jacqueline Fawcett, PhD, FAAN. Fawcett recalled a lunch with my wife Debbie and me, and our then 10-year-old son Charles that took place more than 10 years ago on a very cold Boston winter day. You can hear the interviews in this podcast.

Despite coming to Jeddah to rest, I will be meeting two former doctoral students: Wafaa Al-Johani, PhD, RN, and Ahlam Eidah Al-Zahrani, PhD, RN, who both now work at The College of Nursing, King Abdulaziz University. They invited me to lunch with their dean, Hasnah Erfan Banjar, PhD, RN. I also had dinner with John Sedgewick, RN, director of nursing education and Saudization, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, and a doctoral student at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.

I don’t know if will return relaxed and refreshed to Riyadh tomorrow, but I have enjoyed every minute of this short break. I have a busy week ahead before I submit Part 3 of this Saudi Arabia trilogy.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

31 March 2016

Saudi Arabia, Part 1

HULL, United Kingdom—Absence of a blog post from me for several weeks should not be interpreted to mean that I only write when I am on my travels. Occasionally, I post entries from Hull, where I have been for the past three weeks, but these weeks have been packed with long days, many meetings, learning about new processes, and catching up on supervision of doctoral students. As I remarked to my wife: “It’s almost like having a real job. I’ll be glad to get away for a rest.”

Yours Truly with Mustafa Bedrock.
I have just returned to the UK from Saudi Arabia, the first of three visits scheduled in quick succession. At the invitation of Mustafa Bodrick, PhD, RN, director, Center of Nursing Education, King Abdulaziz Medical City, I have been at the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), where I attended and presented—keynote, workshop, and plenary—at the 2nd International Conference in Nursing & Health Sciences. We arrived in a dust storm and searing heat, which were followed by torrential rain that cleared the air and cooled things down considerably.

There were about 2,000 delegates at the conference, and I was one of five international speakers, all of whom worked hard each day to fulfill their obligations. I was delighted, for the second time this year, to meet Afaf Meleis, PhD, RN, FAAN, who is now dean emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. We first met in Tainan, Taiwan. She is sparkling company, and her fluency in Arabic helped us all in several situations.

Yours Truly with local colleagues, Afaf Meleis (in
turquoise), and Shirley Moore (second from left).
I was also glad to renew acquaintance with Janye Smitten, PhD, RN, health administration tutor, Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University and Muntaha Gharaibeh, PhD, RN, former dean of nursing, Jordan University of Science and Technology. I met Smitten the first time a few years ago at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and Gharaibeh two years ago in Saudi Arabia. At the conference, I was also very pleased to get to know Shirley Moore, PhD, RN, FAAN, The Edward J. and Louise Mellen Professor of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and associate dean for research at that school.

I was able to squeeze in a meeting one evening with Ahmad Aboshaiqah, PhD, RN, dean of nursing, King Saud University (KSU), Riyadh, and a prospective doctoral student to discuss admission processes at the University of Hull and the possibility of pioneering an external joint supervision programme between Hull and KSU. There was no great pressure to finalise arrangements, as I will return to KSU at the end of next week. All I have to do between now and then is secure a visa, visit Dublin and Edinburgh, and get back to London Heathrow.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.