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.

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