01 February 2016

From Utrecht to Tainan and back home again

EN ROUTE TO LONDON—January has been one of the busiest months I remember for a long time. After visiting the Middle East, I was in the Netherlands, and now, after a week in Taiwan, am returning to the United Kingdom from Hong Kong aboard Cathay Pacific’s Flight CX253.

My time in the Netherlands was spent in Utrecht, where I gave a keynote address to the European Academy of Nursing Sciences (EANS) Winter Summit. I was originally invited last year when the conference was in Athens, but other travel obviated that. So I was really pleased to be able to accept this time, especially since Julie Taylor, PhD, RN, FEANS, chair of the summit’s Science Committee and professor of child protection at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is a long-time and very good friend.

My keynote (listen here) was on using social media to promote academic publications. I met many other old friends and colleagues in Utrecht and continue to be impressed by the quality of research carried out by some of the up-and-coming nursing academics in Europe. I am not a political Europhile, but I am very glad we have these trans-European organisations. David Richards, PhD, RN, FEANS, president of EANS and professor of mental health services research at the University of Exeter, UK, gave a very thoughtful and provocative summary of current events in Europe.

In discussing mass migration from the Middle East, he addressed the dilemma of responding with compassion to stateless people while having zero tolerance for the despicable attitudes some male migrants display toward women in the countries that have welcomed them. Moving to academic nursing journals, Richards claimed that a great deal of what is published in them is flawed, not the best introduction I could have had for my keynote address. Nevertheless, he and I have exchanged a great deal of good-natured banter across the years, and a little more never hurts.

The Republic of China
The election of a woman—Tsai Ing-wen—as president of Taiwan put this small island country on the international stage in the week prior to my arrival. I have to choose my words carefully here because describing Taiwan as a nation will upset my mainland Chinese colleagues, and anything suggesting Taiwan is less than independent will upset my Taiwanese Green Party colleagues.

This week, I was in the south of Taiwan in Tainan, the former capital and heartland of the Green Party, where everyone was delighted by the recent election result. I was a guest of the Asian Congress in Nursing Education held at National Cheng Kung University, Tainan. I was there to give a keynote address and was “on the bill” with the legendary Afaf Meleis, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, USA.

Yours Truly at ACiNE conference.
My keynote (listen here) was on use of nursing informatics in education, and I showed a picture of all eight of my children and pointed to my oldest daughter Hannah Watson, RN, BSc, who, on that very day, was celebrating 10 years as a registered nurse. In fact, on the day she passed her finals, I was also in Taiwan. A critical care specialist, she is just completing her advanced nurse practitioner programme at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.

This was a very special visit to Taiwan as it was the first time my wife had accompanied me. I cannot list all the people in Tainan and Taipei who were so wonderful looking after her, but special mention must go to Tzu-Pei Yeh, RN, who recently completed her PhD under my direction. She attended to our every need. We ate large quantities of Chinese food, listened to karaoke, and copiously toasted everyone with wine at a formal banquet. At least Mrs. Watson got some insight into my sufferings!

Tzu-Pei Yeh (right), my former PhD student, clarifies
a point for an attendee of her seminar.
Two nights in Taipei, where the recent election result was not greeted with much enthusiasm, completed the visit. We met Nanly Hsu, PhD, RN, former dean of nursing at Tzu-Chi University in Hualien, on the Pacific coast of Taiwan and Lin-Lian Huang, PhD, RN, FAAN, former dean of nursing at National Taiwan University, Taiwan. Former president of the Taiwan Nurses Association, Huang is a candidate to sit on the governing body of the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

Much to my embarrassment, Huang recalled that the UK, through the offices of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), is no longer a member of the ICN. I am a long-standing member and a fellow of the RCN, but I simply cannot agree with us losing our voice on the world stage. There is an All-Party Parliamentary Group in the UK currently working with the RCN to consider nursing’s contribution to global health. My individual response, submitted recently to the group, included the point that the RCN should rejoin the ICN.

A meeting with Li-Chan Lin, PhD, RN, of National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan—my longest-standing Taiwanese colleague—completed our visit. Lin was Leverhulme Visiting Professor when I was working at the University of Sheffield, UK. If I pioneered assessment of feeding difficulty in older people with dementia, it was Lin who took this work to another level by translating my scale into Chinese and using it in the first rigorous intervention trials using Montessori and spaced retrieval methods. She knows my wife and family very well, and we had our annual reunion in “our place,” le ble d'or.

Back in Hull
This coming week, I will be interviewed about nursing education by Jane Dreaper of the BBC; do some “firefighting” over issues that have arisen and for which I am—pro tem—responsible; and conduct an intimate but necessary medical investigative procedure—you don’t want to know the details—before returning to the University of Genoa in Italy for a week. Otherwise, the racing season for us runners has started here, and I need to decide which races to aim for. My ambition remains completing a 10-kilometre race in under 45 minutes.

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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