I spent 3 weeks in Lithuania in 2018 as a Fulbright Specialist. The project was to further develop and evaluate the newly advanced nursing practice program that was started in 2015. I had made a previous visit as a research scholar before the program was initiated. Faculty at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing in the United States where I was employed had been collaborating with faculty from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences since 2013 and much planning went into creating the new program. Introducing a new role for advanced nursing practice was innovative and bold, and the Department of Nursing was prepared to meet the many challenges. The school decided to prepare nurses as nurse practitioners who would receive advanced education and training in order to fill gaps in the healthcare system. There was a need to increase access to primary care for patients in the community and more services to the elderly. Physicians also wanted specially trained advanced nurses to help in acute care settings; the number of physicians ready to practice was not keeping up with the demands of the health system because of their lengthy training. Although there are different roles in advanced nursing practice, nursing decided to focus on nurse practitioners. These nurses would be trained to assess patients, diagnose illnesses, and manage treatment, including the prescribing of pharmaceuticals, independently but collaboratively with physicians.
A major focus of their practice would also be health promotion and disease prevention. The Dean and faculty in Nursing obtained support from the university, the Ministry of Health, and regulators and were successful in securing title recognition and practice regulations for this new role with graduates now working in a variety of health care settings. The program is revised based on evaluations and outcomes achieved. Nurse practitioners are well-established in other countries, most notably the United States, Australia, and England. My collaboration with the Department of Nursing continues today and future on-site visits are planned. Co-authored scholarly presentations at international nursing conferences and peer-reviewed publications have resulted from this collaboration. Plus, I have made lifelong friends.
I experienced Lithuanian culture fully through personal exploration and planned field trips. There is so much history! I could especially appreciate the medical museum where early instruments and other artifacts were displayed. On a nice day, there was usually someone playing an instrument or singing in the streets. I felt welcome and accepted by everyone I met, professionally and in the general public. Lithuanian traditional food is very rich; I did think twice and thrice about tasting some dishes but developed a taste for a few. I felt safe moving about the town without an escort every time. I stayed in an apartment that was close to cultural sites and events, and the conveniences of shopping and food. I learned invaluable lessons while in Lithuania and feel humbled to have had the experience.
Jamesetta A Newland – Fulbright to Lithuania 2018