16 June 2014

Middle East to UK to Far East

HONG KONG, SAR, China—I am always happy to visit a new country, and, last week, I was in Oman for the first time. I was examining at the College of Nursing at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. Muscat, located on the northeast coast of Oman, faces the Gulf of Oman, which separates the Persian Gulf to the north from the Arabian Sea to the south.

I have to stoop to superlatives to describe the weather. The temperature was over 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), with humidity that exceeded anything I have experienced in the Far East and Southeast Asia. Leaving any air-conditioned building was like being hit in the face with a wet, warm sponge. One evening, at an outdoor cocktail party, I decided to check my phone for messages, and the phone, which had been in my air-conditioned room for hours, simply started dripping with water. I survived and even managed to run, at 0530, but my GPS watch was a victim of the humidity and stopped working—permanently.

The view from my hotel in Oman.

Sultan Qaboos
Sultan Qaboos University is enormous and located on the same campus as Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH). Together, they serve as a major centre of medical and nursing education for the region. My own University of Hull has a long-standing relationship with both the College of Nursing and the hospital. One of my colleagues at Hull was a recent examiner at SQUH; colleagues from SQUH visit Hull and our local hospitals—my daughter has looked after them on the local cardiothoracic intensive care unit; and, over the next few years, we plan to take several cohorts of staff members into our post-registration, undergraduate degree program me.

In Oman, I met members of a recent delegation to Hull, who enthused about the personal and detailed care they received while at Hull. Although they visited many centres in the UK, they chose us because of our hospitality—crucial in Arab culture—and we have my colleague, Jeremy Jolley, PhD, RN, international coordinator, to thank for this. Jeremy preceded me as examiner at the Sultan Qaboos University College of Nursing, and his legendary sense of humour and easy way with international colleagues meant I had a lot to live up to. I don’t yet know if I passed the test, but will conclude I did if I am invited back.

New friends
I was not examining alone; I was reunited with my colleague from Bahrain, Seamus Cowman, PhD, RN, FAAN, head of nursing at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland–Medical University of Bahrain. Also, I was delighted to meet, for the first time, Marilyn Lotas, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and Shadia Yousuf, PhD, RN, assistant professor, King Abdulaziz University Faculty of Nursing, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who gave me news about two of my previous PhD students, now working in Jeddah.

We examined the students in the clinical areas, presenting patient cases and interacting with patients, and following up with a series of very demanding oral examinations. We do nothing like this in the United Kingdom and, while I questioned the value and sustainability of some of the examination procedures (suitable for small numbers but probably unworkable for large numbers), I also wondered if we were not a bit “soft” on our own students.

Professor Cowman and I with male nursing students in Oman.

Hong Kong … again
I returned to the UK for a day to remind my wife and family what I look like and then left for Hong Kong. This week, I am working for the University Grants Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Specifically, I am serving on the humanities and social sciences committee, reviewing research grant proposals related to health.

The view from my hotel in Hong Kong.
I know Hong Kong well and have many friends and colleagues to see. Last night, I went to one of the best places here to get a haircut, the YMCA Salisbury Hotel. If your image of the YMCA is one of old sports halls with table tennis, pool, and a song by Village People, think again. The YMCA has two very good hotels here, and I often use them. In a few weeks, on the way back from Australia, I will be staying at one of them with my 15-year-old daughter.

The haircut at the YMCA reminds me of one of my funniest moments in Hong Kong. The first time I decided to have my hair cut there, I went in and an older Hong Kong lady was sweeping the hair from the floor. Nobody else was there. I asked about a haircut and, with no English, she pointed to me to sit down and proceeded to cut my hair—very well. I asked about the cost, and she said “one hundred dolla’,” meaning HK$100, which I gave her. She put the note in her pocket, and I thought no more about it until my next visit a few weeks later. The lady was still sweeping the floor, but there was also a young man there, who proceeded to cut my hair. At the end, I took out a HK$100 note and handed it to him. “No,” he said. ‘You must pay at the shop,” and handed me a bill for HK$110. I stole a glance at the hair-sweeping lady on the way out. I think I saw her smiling!

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. 

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