09 January 2016

Back in the sultanate

MUSCAT, Sultanate of Oman—My Christmas holiday was cut short slightly by the need to be in Oman on 2 January. This is my second visit to the sultanate, and I remain impressed by the religious tolerance and relative freedom I observe here, compared with some other parts of the Middle East I have visited. Also, compared with last time, the January weather has been very pleasant, making it possible to walk and even run in the evenings. My last visit here was at the height of their summer when any outside activity is almost unbearable. Virtually all Omanis are Muslim, and minarets and mosques are much in evidence. The call to prayer goes out regularly.

Minaret at Mutrah souk
(market) near Muscat.
Examining at Sultan Qaboos University
I have been here as an external examiner at the Sultan Qaboos University College of Nursing, located at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital. The college is a cultural melting pot of nationalities with the staff composed of local Omanis, Jordanians, Filipinos, Ugandans, Indians, and at least one Pakistani. Normally, when I work as an external examiner, the job entails reviewing the processes used to examine students, looking at examination content, and assessing how well standards are being met.

All of that is part of my role here, but external examiners are also expected to participate in conducting final examinations of the students. Two days are spent in the hospital listening to students presenting clinical cases and observing them performing a clinical procedure. One day is spent taking part in the oral examinations. It’s very stressful for the students, exhausting for the examiners, and bears no resemblance to what I am used to back home. I am uncomfortable in the clinical areas, as I feel my presence is an intrusion into patient privacy. However, the role of external examiners is explained and, together with previous examiners, I have been able to persuade the college to minimize the time we spend at bedsides.

Aerial walkway at the university.
When I am overseas and invited to visit clinical areas, I invariably refuse, unless I have some specific function there that is related to teaching or research. Nevertheless, my time here in the hospital, as in my previous visit, was informative. Sickle cell disease is very common in Oman. The problem, as with many Arabic and Muslim populations, is consanguineous marriage. Health education advice and genetic counseling is provided in an effort to eradicate the disease, but preference for cousin marriage—a very strong cultural drive to keep things “in the family”—is hard to stop. Recessive carriers are so common that marrying outside of the family is no guarantee of not having children with sickle cell disease.

A resolution and an anniversary
My new year’s resolution, not the first time I have made this one, is to read more, and I made a good start over Christmas with The Alzheimer Conundrum by Margaret Lock. Lock is a social scientist who, equipped with a thorough knowledge of the literature, investigates theories about Alzheimer’s disease by interviewing some of the key researchers. Essentially, causes of Alzheimer’s disease—as opposed to correlates—remain controversial.

The Journal of Advanced Nursing celebrates 40 years this year—our “JANiversary”—and we will run a series of editorials throughout the year reflecting on the first issue and key papers from the first volume. These will be available to download free from our website for a few weeks. You may wish to read my January editorial which reflects on 40 years of JAN.

After leaving Oman, I return to the UK for 10 days, after which I travel to the Netherlands and then almost directly to Taiwan. My trip to the Far East will be a special one because, for the first time in many years, my wife will accompany me. Because it will be her first visit to Taiwan, it is causing great excitement among my colleagues there, as only a few have met her. On this occasion, I may not be the VIP.

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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