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Lebanese Student Shadows Columbia Nursing NPs, Bringing Global Insight Abroad


For three weeks in January Hanadi Saad lived out her dream of observing nurse practitioners (NPs) interact with patients in a clinical setting at ColumbiaDoctors Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Group. She described the experience as an “eye-opener” for someone whose home country doesn’t currently recognize the practice.

“By law, NPs are not allowed to practice in Lebanon,” Saad said. “I knew NPs could practice in the U.S., and I was very interested in coming to Columbia Nursing to find out how. It’s been enlightening!”

The Lebanese master’s student shadowed Columbia Nursing’s nurse practitioner and Assistant Professor Dr. Elizabeth Hall, DP, as a short-term visitor at the school. She spent her time shadowing professors, going to the Nurse Practitioner Group--the faculty practice of Columbia Nursing--and observing patient care. Despite a short stay of only a few weeks, Saad said she learned a lot to take back home.

“Studying at Columbia Nursing allowed me to compare what I have in my country versus what there is in the world,” she said. “It’s one of my dreams to one day see nurse practitioners in Lebanon! I would even like to open my own clinic.”

Saad isn’t the only international student who will join Columbia Nursing under a “short-term visitor” status this year. The Program Manager of Columbia Nursing’s Office of Global Initiatives, Yu-Hui Ferng, says the school welcomes about 10 international students annually.

“Everyone comes here under different circumstances,” Ferng said. “In Hanadi’s case, the request came from her program director at the American University in Beirut, who is a collaborator of ours.”

The process works by fielding requests based on space and resources. It is important to make sure the faculty have the proper time to invest as mentors and that both parties are interested in the same specialty, according to Ferng.

“Columbia Nursing is a learning institution, and we want to foster that,” Ferng said. “It takes a lot of resources to allow someone to visit, so we want to make sure it is mutually beneficial. Even though we haven’t sent anyone to Lebanon yet, this experience opens doors for future global partnerships.”

In addition to clinical work, Ferng says Columbia Nursing also gets requests from international PhD students who want to come do a research practicum. The length of visits range from a few weeks to three months, and all visitors are offered the opportunity to tell their story at Columbia Nursing’s monthly Diversity Committee meeting.

“We do want our faculty, staff, and students to learn from our visitors,” Ferng said. “With Hanadi, she shared the NP’s role and the struggles they have with regulation and policy makers in Lebanon. It’s nice for us all to learn more about nursing practices around the world.”

From adolescent clinics to impressive follow up care plans for patients, Saad said it was an inspiration to see what the legalization of primary care NPs in Lebanon could mean for her community.

“The University I am studying at is fully accredited. The only thing stopping me from practicing as an NP is legislation,” she said. “When I was discussing it with people here, it seems American NPs had similar challenges many years ago. I hope we have the same outcome in Lebanon and will keep my fingers crossed that the laws change soon.”

Before leaving to go back home to Lebanon, Saad said her experience at Columbia Nursing was once in a lifetime.

“I was so impressed,” Saad said. “Dr. Hall spent so much time teaching me and making sure my time at Columbia Nursing was enriching despite the short stay. I felt so welcomed.”

The next international short-term visitors to Columbia Nursing will come this summer, thanks to a memorandum of understanding with the University of Navarra in Spain. The program will be an exchange, where four to six Columbia Nursing students will study in Spain in April and May, and then four to six Spanish students will travel to New York to study at Columbia Nursing.