The School of Nursing has renewed its partnership with the Canada India Education Society (CIES) to support the development of nursing education in the Indian state of Punjab.
The CIES and the School of Nursing began their partnership in 1998, with the goal of supporting the nursing education program at Guru Nanak College of Nursing in Punjab. Through visits, exchanges, and advocacy for nursing, the partnership has increased the profile and status of nursing as a profession – and through doing so has improved the health of citizens in more than 60 nearby villages, and helped many women and poorer families improve their lives through employment in a growing and necessary field.
Supporting global nursing education
In 1998, with the support of the Canada India Education Society (CIES), the School of Nursing at UBC sent a delegation of nursing professors to the Guru Nanak College of Nursing in the state of Punjab, with the intent of helping with their newly established baccalaureate nursing education program. Fourteen years later, the improvements to nursing education at Guru Nanak College, which were supported by the School of Nursing through its partnership with CIES, have been so successful at transforming nursing services and access to health care in rural Punjab that a new, broader partnership will be launched in 2012.
It is something that would make Budh S. Dhahan proud. Mr. Dhahan arrived in Canada in the 1950s with his family; he settled on Vancouver Island, but never forgot his homeland. “He always wanted to return and help,” remembers his son Barj. And in 1991, Mr. Budh S. Dhahan, together with his family and friends, set up the Canada India Education Society to promote education and health in rural Punjab.
The CIES was originally created to support the Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust in Dhahan – Kaleran, Punjab. This educational trust not only supports the local population through hospital and health care, but provides local nursing education as well – and it targets, especially, women from lower caste and lower income families, so that they can gain a profession and improve their lives and the lives of their family members.
During the late 1990s and early years of the 2000s, the School of Nursing and Guru Nanak College of Nursing exchanged faculty, students, ideas and developments, promoting nursing in Punjab and expanding UBC’s own understanding of nursing within a global perspective.
The transformation in nursing education from this partnership has been enormous. “When we started, Guru Nanak was one of only three or four baccalaureate nursing programs in the state, and nursing as a profession had a low social and professional status,” recalls Sarup Mann, President of CIES. “The partnership with the School of Nursing at UBC opened up a dialogue, advocated for the profession, and showed the effects nursing can have – health issues, advocacy, primary health care and disease prevention, and community health. There are now close to 20 baccalaureate degree granting programs of nursing in the state, and it’s considered a respectable and influential profession. The partnership with UBC made an indelible impact on our programs and on the health of the people of Punjab.”
This next step will build on the success of the first initiative with a linkage to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences in Faridkot – the degree-granting institution for the state of Punjab. “Although the focus of the new initiative is to provide support for the nursing education programs at Baba Farid University, it will also allow us to connect with the almost 100 colleges of nursing across the state,” says Susan Dahinten, Associate Professor of Nursing at UBC and UBC’s lead for the partnership. “Punjab has seen enormous growth in the number of nursing programs over the last decade, but there remains a need for the professional development of nurse educators, and to further develop the role of nurses and their scope of practice, for example, to increase nursing involvement in health care policy. This partnership is aimed at these goals as well as upgrading nursing education in Punjab to an international standard.”
It’s not only rural Punjab that will benefit, however. “Partnership activities will include student and faculty exchanges which should lead to a better understanding by both partners, of nursing and health issues from a global perspective,” notes Dahinten. “UBC students will have an opportunity to develop greater cultural sensitivity and global awareness; our faculty will have an opportunity to engage in collaborative research and develop more broad-based theories. We will be contributing to nursing education and nursing practice in Punjab, but we will gain an enormous amount in return.”
The focus of the partnership with Baba Farid University will include upgrading of graduate as well undergraduate nursing education, and the development of joint research initiatives. With the rapidly increasing infrastructure at the university, educational sessions can be delivered by the UBC School of Nursing to faculty and students across the state of Punjab – and research collaborations can be conducted more efficiently as well.
The growing influence of India on the global community was underscored by a visit from BC’s Premier in November – and UBC’s own announcement of regional offices in Bangalore and Delhi. “CIES was the pioneer in Canada-India partnerships, and our success has led the way forward,” said Barj Dhahan, member of the CIES Board of Directors and son of its founder, Budh S. Dhahan. “We view our investment in education and health care as just the first – and most important – step towards prosperity for both our countries.”
Success that is dependent on bridging the cultural, language, and social gaps between Canada and India – a role that CIES is committed to filling for UBC. “Without the CIES aiding our efforts in Punjab, we would not have had the success we have had in India,” says Colleen Varcoe, Director of the School of Nursing. “Their leadership was and is crucial.”
For their part, the CIES is happy to note the many contributions from community and the School that have paved the way. “This has all been done on a volunteer basis, with contributions from the community,” they note. “Even the Nursing faculty have largely volunteered their time, and it has had a profound impact on people in Punjab.”
“It is our desire to ensure our nursing education has a global perspective,” said Barj Dhahan. “We want to raise health outcomes in general, across the board, in India and beyond. We also want to ensure accessibility for everyone, from the wealthy to the poor.” He notes that their efforts to target the most needy has had a profound impact on health. “These students, those who became nurses, not only transformed their futures, but they take their knowledge back to their families and their communities – and in this way, health outcomes of an entire village are improved. We are indeed saving lives, improving lives, and contributing to a better global future – through nursing.”
For more information, contact:
Susan Dahinten, Director of the UBC-BFUHS Nursing Partnership Project