USC Upstate News

From the Upstate to the Ukraine: Mary Black Nursing Instructors Share Expertise, Ideas

09- 29- 2008

Spartanburg, S.C. - Over the past three years, the Mary Black School of Nursing at the University of South Carolina Upstate has developed a close relationship with the Ternopil State Medical University (TSMU) School of Nursing in Ternopil, Ukraine. Professors and instructors have participated in exchanges, classes and teaching methods have been observed, deans and chancellors from both institutions have visited at length in each other’s countries, enabling a friendship – on a personal, professional and institutional level – to flourish.

While the relationship between the two universities is still young, Dr. Gayle Casterline, associate dean for the Mary Black School of Nursing, and Dr. Nataliya Lishchenko, formerly the director of the School of Nursing at TSMU, and now an instructor of nursing at USC Upstate, see great promise for the exchange of nursing ideas, theory, and practical experiences between the two institutions.

They are fresh from a conference held June 5 and 6 in Ternopil at the School of Nursing  – the Fourth Annual Ukranian International Nursing Conference with the theme “Philosophy in Nursing”  – at which Dr. Casterline presented on “The Philosophy of Caring Theory.” More than 150 delegates from 120 Ukrainian nursing schools, clinics and hospitals from all over the country attended. She was overwhelmed at the interest and enthusiasm that the nursing students, nurses and faculty had for her presentation.

Gayle Casterline“Presenting the philosophy of caring theory was an unveiling of new information – new words, phrases and names – but they knew what it was all about … It addresses the heart and soul of nursing,” says Casterline. She says that after the presentation, she was asked dozens of questions by her Ukrainian nursing colleagues who felt Casterline and Watson had put into words the very thoughts they were having about their profession.

The theory, developed by Dr. Jean Watson, is used by clinical nurses and academic programs worldwide. It addresses the nurse’s ability to connect on a “transpersonal spirit-to-spirit level … through the use of movements, gestures, facial expressions, procedures, information, touch, sound, verbal expressions and other scientific, technical, aesthetic, and human means of communication,” according to Dr. Watson’s Web site at the University of Colorado, where she is a distinguished professor of nursing.

“While nurses do need technical skills,” says Casterline, “they also need people skills because the core of nursing is about being able to connect with patients in a human way – connecting spirit-to-spirit – all of which enhances healing for the patient.”

Before and after the two-day conference, Casterline and Lishchenko visited adult and children’s hospitals, other nursing schools, physical therapy programs, and a breastfeeding expert. Casterline was excited to be with Lishchenko in her native country as she was able to give her the Ukrainian perspective on changes within that country’s health care system.

Nataliya Lishchenko“The technical level of care is higher in the United States and the assessment skills are more intense,” says Lishchenko, “but big reform is underway in Ukraine as it moves away from the Soviet model.”

One important reform taking place within the Ukrainian nursing field is the establishment of a nursing master’s degree program in the 2008-2009 academic year. The program will prepare a new generation of instructors and professors who are nurses to teach other nurses, because, says Lishchenko, “only a nurse can teach students how to become a good nurse.”  Lishchenko says that in the Ukrainian system now, nurses are the equivalent of a physician’s assistant in America, “who simply follow a physician’s orders.”  But after the reforms take hold within the system, she hopes to see the establishment of nursing as a separate independent professional unit within a hospital, similar to American hospitals.

A second important reform is the formation of the Ukrainian Nurses Association under the leadership of Ms. Tatyana Chernyshenko, who is a member of Ministry of Public Health of Ukraine and a true leader for all Ukrainian Nurses. Similar to the American model of the American Nurses Association, the Ukrainian Nurses Association will be able to lobby for better salary, access to better education, address the nursing shortage, and ultimately lead to an improvement in the status of nursing practice.

“We’ve made a very important international connection,” says Casterline, who adds that one of the Mary Black School of Nursing’s long term goals is to direct attention to the “transcultural global focus of nursing here at USC Upstate.” Drs. Casterline and Lishchenko have already made an important start and will be sharing their story in a presentation before the Southern Nursing Research Society conference to be held in Baltimore in February 2009. Additionally five USC Upstate nursing students have signed up for summer study in Ukraine in 2009.