Allison Squires, MSN, RN, BC is a third year doctoral student at Yale University School of Nursing. Her dissertation work is focusing on completing an exploratory case analysis study of the development of professional nursing in Mexico in the late 20th century. Her experiences as a student in Oaxaca, Mexico, a project coordinator for USAID training grant for nursing professors in Nicaragua, and now as a community health nursing instructor who brings nursing students to Mexico for that rotation fueled her interest in this topic. A nurse for nine years, her clinical background has been largely in adult health acute care nursing, most recently in solid organ transplant at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She has also worked in staff development in a rural community hospital in central Pennsylvania and in a large university medical center. Allison serves as adjunct faculty in adult health nursing at the nursing schools at Quinnipiac and Fairfield Universities in Connecticut. In 2003, she was nominated as an associate fellow in the Yale World Fellows Program (www.yale.edu/worldfellows) along with three other graduate students from across Yale University.
"I've always been interested in nurses, the nature of our work, and the complexities of the nursing profession. We have to understand ourselves and our profession if we are to continue to evolve and should make that part of our research agenda. Also, for those of us from countries with well developed nursing professions, I believe we have a professional responsibility to help our colleagues in other countries who are struggling to evolve professionally amidst huge health challenges, in a way that is culturally and geographically appropriate for the profession there," says Allison Squires, MSN, RN, BC, a third year doctoral student at Yale University School of Nursing and 2004-2005 NEF scholarship recipient.
Allison's research interests center around the development of professional nursing in developing countries. Her interest in this topic began as an undergraduate nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania, when she had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Oaxaca (woh-hah-kah), Mexico. An internship in the health care system during that semester abroad helped her discover the field of international health care and she felt like she had finally found her "nursing niche". The experience in Mexico afforded her the opportunity to complete a minor in Latin American Studies, become fluent in Spanish, and make lifelong connections in the health system there.
After graduation from her BSN program, she desired to continue getting international experience in health care but also obtain acute care experience. She moved to Pittsburgh, PA where she began working in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health system and also enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing program, focusing on nursing education, at Duquesne University (DU) part-time. At DU, she worked as a graduate assistant for the Center for International Nursing where, thanks to her bilingual abilities, she helped to coordinate a USAID funded training program for nursing professors in Nicaragua in updating maternal-child health nursing curricula. She also brought a small group of undergraduates from DU to Oaxaca for an observational community health experience. Upon graduating from her MSN program in 1999, she took a break from international work and spent three years in a small community hospital and then at Yale-New Haven Hospital in staff development. She continues to work there at present as a staff nurse and also serves as a clinical instructor for Quinnipiac and Fairfield Universities in their respective nursing programs.
She began doctoral study in the Fall of 2002 in the health policy track. Serendipitously, the School of Nursing was starting to expand its international study opportunities for students by creating international community health rotations abroad. With many students entering Yale's program with Peace Corps or other international volunteer program experience, there was a significant demand for such opportunities. Eager to return to Mexico --especially in a faculty role, Allison capitalized on her experience and connections in Mexico to create the month long community health rotation for the graduate entry level nursing students in Yale's program.
The first year of the program had 8 students go to Mexico; this past summer there were 14 and she is on board again for next year expecting a maximum of 16 students to go to Mexico with her and another Yale alumna. In describing the student experience, she states, "The students interested in an international experience either already have some international experience working abroad in health or another area or they think they might be interested in working as a nurse abroad. They definitely know by the end of the month if they are cut out for that kind of work or not. This short, month long experience is personally challenging but also life changing for many of them. The health and service disparities in the developing world are thrust in their faces every day and impact them far more than reading about these problems ever could. Also, the challenge of having to live every day in a non-English speaking world gives them a new appreciation for the struggles that their immigrant patients face when trying to navigate the US healthcare system. When I tell my other students about the summer community health program, many of them wish they could have a similar opportunity in their undergraduate experience. In our ever globalizing world, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get students out of the country --especially to the developing world. For some it will give them a new sense of purpose for nursing, for others they will truly come to appreciate what they have living in the US."
Ms. Squires global thinking also repeatedly came across in her doctoral coursework. This was one factor that led to a nomination and eventual acceptance into the Yale World Fellows Program (www.yale.edu/worldfellows) in 2003 as an associate fellow. The program selects 18 mid-career professionals from around the globe to participate in a fully funded, semester long program at the university. The program covers a multitude of international topics and has participants who are new and emerging leaders in the field. Four graduate students are selected from the university to bring in the "US point of view" to the discussions and she was one of them.
The program afforded her the opportunity to present a different image of nursing and its possibilities to the participants, present the issues surrounding international nurse migration (a hot topic in this year's 2004 World Fellows class), and taught her how to explain nursing to non-healthcare professionals. She now sees herself as being able to serve as an ambassador and advocate for nursing to persons outside and within the health professions. It also created a partnership with one of the fellows, an Iraqi physician. Developed during the program and coordinated via email upon his return to the northern region of the country, they have recently completed a study of northern Iraqi nurses and their priorities for health system reconstruction. With data collection complete, she is looking forward to what the data analysis will reveal about our nursing colleagues in that part of the world.
These combined domestic and international experiences have shaped her dissertation work profoundly. She hopes to complete an exploratory case analysis of the development of professional nursing in Mexico during the latter half of the 20th century. Reflecting on her education thus far, "The opportunity not only to take the very strong nursing research and conceptual analysis courses at Yale, but to also be able to take courses in political economy, the sociology of development, and the like have profoundly changed the way I think about the forces that shape our profession. It has also forced me to become a more global thinker, something which I hope I can use to serve the profession well in the future."