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Q&A: Research training for nurses benefits U.S and Thailand

August 6, 2014
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Kathleen Potempa, dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, discusses her program’s longstanding ties with Thailand, the role nurses play in the country’s medical system and the importance of the new research project for U.S. and Thai health care:

Why is research so important in nursing?

GM - PotempaAll health care professionals are called upon to base their practices on well-researched ‘evidence’ that their care leads to improvements in health. Nursing has focused on research from as far back as Florence Nightingale, who was herself a noted public health researcher. The U-M School of Nursing has a strong program of research, much of it focused on chronic disease management. We are extending our support to enhancing research capacity for non-communicable, chronic disease in Thailand.

U-M has a long history of collaboration with its Thai partners in nursing. Can you describe the relationship?

I first started working in Thailand in the mid-1990s, focusing on expanding doctoral education for nurses. Later, when the Thai government moved to support universal health care, there was a significant need to expand the public health workforce to include a new role in the country for the ‘nurse practitioner,’ which is a recognized provider role in the U.S. and some other countries. Our efforts together then turned to building capacity for training nurse practitioners and to restructure the public health system to support the nurse practitioner role throughout the country’s regions. Thailand now has a highly educated nursing workforce that can and should be leveraged to expand research capacity in chronic disease management.

The program involves collaboration that will benefit the U.S. and Thailand? What are the benefits for the U.S?

While the context of care and life are different in the U.S. and Thailand, everything we learn through research has potential benefits for all patients who experience similar disease, problems and even life situations. Further, the cross-cultural aspects of research team building fosters greater understanding of health and health care that can have continued benefit as we evolve our own perspectives of health and health policy.

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