Nurses—Making a Difference in Global Health

Nurse Stories: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Nigeria – Nursing and Coaching Woven Together

I have been shifting my role as a cardiac-surgical ward nurse to one of providing professional and personal development over the last few years. Working as an Integral Coach, with a background in nursing, has provided me with some groundbreaking opportunities.

In Winter 2009, I went to Nigeria as part of an international development team to bring Integral leadership to thirty emerging Nigerian leaders. Leading From Within is a One Sky project with the purpose of working with Nigerian NGO leaders over a three-year period to develop their capacity in the area of sustainable development. Meeting the complexity of an evolving impenetrable nation, we are providing them with new applied models, core leadership competencies, and an increased ability to hold multiple perspectives.

One of the interconnected pieces that I was able offer between my nursing and coaching professions, was in my role to deepen the participants applied knowledge in the area of HIV/AIDS. Throughout the coaching presentation process I demonstrated how an Integral methodology applied within the context of HIV/AIDS programs would provide much farther reaching effects than traditional programs have.

The participants loved this! They were so involved in their learning, and truly dug into any questions they had until they were fully satisfied. It was a pleasure to see how much more learning came from their willingness to ask questions, define terms, and really make things their own – not just accept them. For example, I described Integral Coaching as including “mind, body, heart, and spirit.” Clear enough, from our perspective, yet what followed was an in-depth discussion on the cultural differences of these terms – for example, in Nigeria “heart” often literally means the organ, and when asked where their feelings reside they say their mind, and touch their chest. I went on to define the difference between “mind” as a composite of the individual, whereas “spirit” is everywhere. The key point is that, as in any Integral Coaching relationship, as in nursing relationship, one needs to be working closely with an individual to fully understand what the meaning of any term has for them, since we all hold these definitions differently.

Many of the leaders are seeking greater confidence and courage in speaking to a wide variety of audiences. Communication is a fascinating topic, especially in a place with hundreds of local dialects! One thing we found is that it’s important to find out if a participant’s communication challenges are the same in their native language. Often they may have a different level of capacity when speaking their first language to the members of their village, versus when public speaking in English, which is often their third language.

In addition to language difference, some are finding themselves speaking to audiences with higher levels of education than they are used to. Or it may be the reverse – that they themselves have become more educated and now want to learn how to go back and effectively communicate to their own village where people now see them differently. (There seems to be frequent concern about how one will be perceived as he or she grows and “steps out” – that people may not be comfortable with this for various reasons, namely that the worldview is generally at an ethnocentric level, and this may be seen as threatening to that structure.)

There also may be concern about how to approach the “Big Men” – those high in Nigerian hierarchy, whether in government, business, or any sector. This is an especially interesting topic because there is such frequent corruption that when communicating as an ethical leader it’s very important to be able to stand one’s ground. And an especially inspiring topic for women leaders across the globe – as one leader in women’s rights wants to become more effective in respectfully negotiating conflict with men! This is something that is also still an issue today facing nurses in most countries around the world.

Consider the huge challenges Nigeria faces - widespread corruption, poverty, HIV/AIDS, deforestation, poor water, minimal electricity, the list goes on. It is the world's 5th largest oil producer, yet sometimes the citizens wait in line for days to buy gas. It is the most populous country in Africa, and I have read that it is often considered the tipping point for the entire continent - that if healthy leadership can develop here, it will take the continent up with it, and sadly the reverse is true as well.

Given this situation, it is stunning to be in the position to meet the very leaders who are in the position to create this change. And it's truly an honor to hear what goes on inside of them, what their passions and fears are - and to see that they are much like mine. The beauty of working with the Integral model is that it allows for the uniqueness of every person to be honored, and at the same time there are some important and useful themes that we are noticing. This information can help us and others doing similar work to more fully understand how to meet people where they are, and to provide the most effective guidance - rather than just assuming we have the answers.

Contact information:

James Baye, RN, BSN, CIC

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