The Fulbright Program has sponsored the work of more than 325,000 scholars since its creation in 1946. Operating in more than 155 countries across the globe, the program seeks to increase mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and people of other countries, and to support solutions to shared international concerns.
In accordance with these goals, Dr. Marietta Bell-Scriber, associate professor of family health and community health nursing, proposed a collaborative project to the Fulbright Scholar Program in 2009, in which she partnered with communities of Cyprus to teach healthcare topics focused on improving nursing practice on the Eastern Mediterranean island nation.
Bell-Scriber, a nurse practitioner and educator, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for 2010-2011. This gave her the opportunity to teach in both the predominantly Greek southern and Turkish northern communities of Cyprus, which share what Bell-Scriber called, “an unfortunate history of conflict.”
According to Bell-Scriber, those arriving in Cyprus today find the island separated into two areas and communities with distinct cultures. “Additionally,” she said, “it has been reported that in The Republic of Cyprus there is widespread discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation with rare positive measures to promote respect for human Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights.”
While Bell-Scriber did many things during her time in the southern region of Cyprus, she said the most successful outcome arose from a transcultural course she developed and piloted. The course has since become part of the host university’s curriculum as a nursing education elective. At the end of the course, students demonstrated they had become more sensitive to a patient’s ethnicity and beliefs when different from their own, Bell-Scriber said. In addition, students identified the need to be able to deal with patients with different sexual orientations from their own.
Bell-Scriber said she hopes this course may continue to dispel “longstanding biases, misunderstandings, and prejudices that might even assist toward a peaceful settlement on this island.”
Meanwhile, in the northern region, Bell-Scriber was able to provide seminars for both practicing nurses and master’s nursing students on herbal medications, transcultural nursing, and women and heart diseases. Most important, however, were the Family Nursing Theory workshops she provided for 75 public health nurses. In February 2011, after fulfilling ten workshop hours, the nurses began using what they learned to improve nursing care in villages across the region. More recently, health assessments were developed and integrated into public schools, where assessment for hypertension, diabetes and other chronic conditions now occurs.
As the Cypriot nurses considered new concepts and tools in nursing practice due to the dialogues in Bell-Scriber’s courses, the Fulbright recipient also found the experience personally rewarding. Due to challenges experienced, she says, Bell-Scriber learned the importance of being clearer, more succinct, more patient and more visual, and of utilizing non-verbal behaviors to enhance communication and educate more effectively. Her experience in Cyprus, she said, “will continue to change the way she teaches.” She also developed “a deeper and richer understanding of the cultural contexts in which our nursing profession is situated, as well as the similarities and differences between our international nursing communities.”