Supporting “voice” is one of the elements underpinning the notion of Advocacy. As I contemplated what I would share with you relative to this blog – I came to the decision I really wanted to write about the connection between the concepts of “Advocacy” as “supporting”, and “Mentoring” as “guiding”; I would argue these are strongly associated with one another, but not often explicitly written about in this way. To this end, I use two specific examples from my work to illustrate the affiliation of Advocacy and Mentoring. I think it is important to acknowledge there are different types of “mentoring”, but I have chosen here to discuss one type. I will present, as I see it, the current state relative to the emerging field of global health, ending with posing a question, for us to ponder, as we move to assist those reaching for a voice in global health.
Example one is about a newly graduated Registered Nurse who has been exposed to the concept of global health as part of her nursing education. In addition, as part of her education, she had the opportunity to participate in an international clinical placement. Both of these experiences had a profound influence upon how she perceived the critical population health needs globally. This nurse is now questioning how she can incorporate some of this “new” knowledge to make a “difference” as she embarks on her future career in nursing.
Example two is about a Registered Nurse who has graduated from his nursing program just over five years ago. Since graduating, the nurse has completed a Master of Public Health and is now reflecting upon how he can use this new found knowledge to also make an impact at a policy level with a career in global health. In both of these examples, these nurses have been searching and reaching out to other nurses, asking them about how they can have a career in global health that can have an impact to better the health of others.
This brings me to the main argument of my blog which is the link between “advocacy” and “mentoring”. For the past three years, I have been a mentor for young health professionals or newly graduated nurses who are interested in understanding what “global health is”, as well as trying to discover how they might pursue a career in global health in order to have an impact. For many of these young professionals they have been “Reaching for a Voice”, so they can participate in this evolving field of what we now call “global health”. The reason I say “reaching”, or maybe “grasping” would be a better description, is because it is not easy for them to find mentors to guide them on their journey. Why is this so? From a historical perspective, for many of us (nursing clinicians and scholars), the concept of “global health” is an emerging field of study. Some of us have started our careers in the fields of “Public Health” or “International Health”, which are well-established and well-known fields of study worldwide. As a result, when nurses are looking for someone who can engage with them to better understand the complexities of this field, it may be difficult to currently find experienced nurses knowledgeable in global health who can guide them.
While I cannot provide solutions to the one specific question I pose, my intention is we will think critically about how we can collectively assist our next generation of global health nursing leaders to find a “voice” in this emerging field. The question I would like us to ponder is: What kind of mentoring do we need to guide these nurses, so they have a platform to be heard, as they find their way through understanding global health, which we are also trying to discover? Supporting them to find opportunities and engaging with them about the complexities of global health is one way we can help by being their advocate, and bring a “voice” to their desire.
Barbara J. Astle, RN, PhD