Leading Beyond Borders

A group of nursing students completed a community health nursing clinical rotation in May 2017 at Mtumbi Secondary School in Tanzania, Africa. Photo/Kate York

As the new director of global health nursing, Kate York aims to shape globally aware, culturally competent nursing students with the experience necessary to make a broader impact on health care.

By: Katie Coburn

An experienced nurse practitioner who has lived, studied and taught abroad, Kate York calls herself a “student of the world.”

Undoubtedly a perfect fit for the new position of director of global health nursing at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, York has big plans for nursing students looking to study abroad.

“The best thing I can bring is my enthusiasm for global health. It’s very exciting to be able to interact with people of different cultures and to see different aspects of the world and how health systems work elsewhere,” says York, PhD, RN, FNP, director of Global Health Nursing, assistant professor of clinical nursing and UC College of Nursing alumna. “What I’m going to bring is an opportunity for nursing students to have classes about global health and experiences about global health.”

Kate York, Director of Global Health Nursing

Kate York, PhD, RN, FNP

Whether by introducing innovative global health courses or restructuring study abroad trips, York looks to create more globally aware, culturally competent nursing students who can impact nursing students and health care systems in other countries.

“What we want to do is, wherever we go with groups of students, is to impact nursing students and nurses in those countries,” York says. “We’re trying innovative ways of connecting our nursing students with nursing students in other countries.”

York plans to make these connections by developing collaborative partnerships with nursing schools at universities in foreign countries. She hopes to create balanced student exchange opportunities so that nursing students from different countries can learn from each other.

“It builds nursing up on both sides,” York says. “Our nursing students are going to see how to work with low resources. Their nursing students are going to be exposed to other ways of doing things, seeing what technology is there and what they might aspire to achieve in their health system.”

York’s overarching goal is to steer away from short-term service learning study abroad trips and implement more nursing-focused trips where UC nursing students spend weeks interacting with nurses and providing health care to communities in another country. Short-term service learning study abroad trips, York says, provide students with only a brief sense of cultural competency and have little impact on those receiving health care.

“What it leaves behind is someone who had health care for one day. We don’t know what happens to the people after we see them there,” York says. “What we’re looking at doing is making these connections so the nursing schools in those countries can connect with theses villages or wherever we happen to have gone, and then the country itself can start building up capacity in order to sustain health care improvements.”

York tested her vision of partnering nursing students from different countries when she and 10 UC nursing students traveled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to work with students from Hubert Kairuki Memorial University — where York taught for an academic year in 2014 — for two weeks in May 2017. The Tanzanian nursing students were four weeks into their community health clinical rotation, during which they provided health care to community members, assessed the community’s health care system and devised and implemented an intervention plan to improve it. York’s group of UC students collaborated with the Tanzanian students to implement the intervention plan and showcase their work at the university.

Overall a success, York plans to lead similar trips in the future. While she aims to make studying abroad a possibility for every UC nursing student who yearns to travel and learn abroad, York says she can help students increase their cultural competency here in Cincinnati.

“Global health is actually in our own backyard,” York says. “We have a lot of cultures that are different than what we think is the standard American culture. Creating experiences for students to be able to experience something out of their comfort zone helps them build their cultural competence.”

Kate York talks with families in Tanzania, Africa.

Kate York talks with families during a recent trip to Tanzania, Africa. Photo/Kate York