OHSU and Thai Health Systems Forge Alliance

OHSU and Thai Health Systems Forge Alliance: Better Health Care for Both Sides of the Pacific Rim

The global reach of OHSU and its School of Nursing recently expanded by 7,577 miles. That's the distance between Portland and Bangkok, Thailand, where the university has recently formed an alliance with Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS), Thailand's largest health care network, and Mahidol University.

We are taking collaboration to the next levelIn announcing the collaboration, OHSU President Joe Robertson said, "We are taking collaboration to the next level. This initiative will serve both Oregon and Thailand as a platform for education and research and cross-cultural exchange."

The nursing school has two budding relationships in OHSU Global –Southeast Asia. The first is collaboration among OHSU's School of Nursing, Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Samitivej International Children's Hospital. The other is between the nursing school and Mahidol University's School of Nursing.

Ann Nielsen, Ph.D., R.N., program director of undergraduate programs on the Portland campus, traveled to Bangkok in April with staff from Doernbecher Children's Hospital to consult with clinicians and educators at Samitivej, one of 42 hospitals in the BDMS network. The group focused on the Thai hospital's neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric intensive care unit. Other team members included Bob Schelonka, M.D., Pam Brown, Ph.D., R.N., Nikki Wiggins, R.N., Kate DeLander, R.N. and Jan Freitas-Nichols, P.N.P.

"They want to become an international referral center, so we did some partnering with them," Nielsen says. For example, members of the OHSU group worked with neonatal nurses on team-based NICU resuscitation and stabilization techniques. With the PICU nurses, the Americans explored ways the Thai nurses might achieve more autonomy and expand their clinical judgment and assessment skills.

Nielsen and Brown also worked with PICU nurses to implement nursing rounds. "Nursing rounds are a way for less experienced nurses to be mentored by more experienced nurses," Nielsen says. "It's not hypothetical learning but a way to observe and make clinical judgments on what's best for a specific, and very real, patient."

In June, the Thai nurses came to Doernbecher to observe American NICU and PICU care. "The focus was to learn the type of care we deliver at Doernbecher and the ways we support the learning of others as a teaching hospital," Nielsen says. "As a nursing educator, my role is to help other people become educators."

The second partnership is with Mahidol University's School of Nursing. Leaders from both schools have met in person to develop a list of potential partnership opportunities, according to Peggy Wros, Ph.D., R.N., senior associate dean for student affairs and diversity. "There's pent up demand among students and faculty for international experiences," she says. "We have things to learn from and to offer each other."

Wros says that Mahidol is developing a family nurse practitioner program and that it may want to send a visiting professor to OHSU to observe classes and clinical experiences in the FNP program. Other ideas being considered are the exchange of undergraduate students for up to a month at a time, collaborative research projects, and hosting Thai nurses working toward a doctoral degree. She says that international experiences are important to Thai educators and pointed out that many of the Mahidol leaders were educated in the United States.  

"OHSU is developing a comprehensive international program," Wros says. "This is the start of a strong partnership."

The entire global initiative is very broad and creates a center for OHSU in Southeast Asia, says Leah Cronn, J.D., who along with Justin Denny, M.D., is lead staff for OHSU Global. In October 2014, OHSU and BDMS signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to establish centers of excellence built on interprofessional relationships.

"For OHSU, this initiative provides students and faculty a safe but substantial opportunity to work internationally and bring back ideas to improve the quality and standard of care here in Oregon," Cronn says. "For our partners, our goal is to create a learning environment that is bilateral. We can also help build capacity in Southeast Asia so people there nurture hubs of knowledge."