Medford nursing program serving as model in Egypt

Founded in April 2001, the SFSD provides grants to fund projects implemented by partners in such areas as health care, education and environment.

Marie McCarthy, vice president for education for the Lawrence Memorial Hospital/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs and Hallmark Health Center for Professional Development, said the program was contacted in January by a consultant hired by SFSD.

“They wanted to find a nursing program in the states that does what we do,” McCarthy said. “They also wanted to raise the standards of nursing education by creating a model that would serve to raise the bar.”

Through the school’s designation as a National League for Nursing Center of Excellence — one of only 13 nationwide — the SFSD consultant reached out to McCarthy.

“I didn’t know what to think,” she said of her initial reaction. “We get all sorts of requests and I was open to learning more about it. I never expected it would become a reality.”

The SFSD’s founder, Yousriya Loza-Sawiris, visited the nursing school in April. A contract between Lawrence Memorial Hospital/Regis College Nursing Program and the SFSD was signed in Egypt during a July visit by Assistant Director Kathleen Ericson, Director of Student and Alumni Services Janet Jones and McCarthy.

The trio was on hand to visit the site of the newly built Gouna Nursing Institute and offer recommendations for everything from purchasing equipment to curriculum to recruiting staff, faculty and students.

Both McCarthy and Ericson were expected to return during the week of Sept. 21 to visit with the school’s new director as well as work with the group to get ready for the Egyptian government’s official inspection of the facility and program in October.

While the SWSD’s program will benefit from years of tweaking to perfect the nursing curriculum locally, it’s not a one-way street. McCarthy said the local program is definitely looking at sending faculty to Egypt to broaden their perspectives of nursing on a global level.

“It also bodes well for our re-designation as a center of excellence because this really enriches the experience of our students,” she said.

The Lawrence Memorial Hospital/Regis College Nursing Program was designated a National League for Nursing Center of Excellence in 2008, the first in New England. The three-year designation is up in 2011.

To Egypt and back

On a 15-hour flight from New York to Egypt in July, the trio from Medford had no expectations about what they would find once they landed. Only Jones had been to land of pyramids before.

“It was very crowded,” said Ericson, of her first impression. “The food was excellent. They definitely eat more beans than we do. I also didn’t order the roast pigeon.”

McCarthy, sitting nearby, smiled.

“I might,” she said, to the astonishment of co-workers.

The three say they were kept busy day and night, touring facilities such as hospitals, libraries and universities. They also got the chance to do some sightseeing, visiting the pyramids, the Sphinx and swimming in the Red Sea.

“It’s a country of extremes,” McCarthy said of Egypt. “It’s a country of the very poor and the very wealthy. We were treated well and taken care of.”

Jones added their Sawiris hosts were the ultimate ambassadors for their country.

“We really learned about the everyday culture,” McCarthy said. “We were like sponges, trying to figure it all out.”

McCarthy added it was also an eye-opening experience to get a first-hand view of nursing in Egypt.

“It was like nursing 40 years ago in the United States,” she said. “They follow the doctor’s orders, they don’t make decisions. It’s the handmaiden model. Hopefully, our program will let them adapt.”

The trio said they are excited about how both organizations will work together the next few years and what the future may bring.

“We’re a small community hospital and nursing program,” McCarthy said. “We don’t have a large university with access to a large academic medical center. We have about 1,000 students across all our nursing programs. This is a big feather in our caps and it may lead to other international opportunities for us.”

Jones is more philosophical.

“I feel very honored to be selected by the Sawiris Foundation because they are so highly esteemed throughout the Middle East,” she said. “It’s a win-win for all of us. Think about how the three of us are changing something in another country and helping them move forward.”

McCarthy smiled.

“Now, I really can’t retire,” she joked.

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