From left, Marina Donahue, Lindsay Beth Harris and Colleen Smith

This spring, three ambulatory nurse practitioners were part of a team of Brigham care providers presented with a rare opportunity: to lead an educational program for those who care for U.S. embassy staff and their families around the globe.

“The experience was incredible,” said Lindsay Beth Harris, NP, assistant director of Ambulatory Nursing and Cardiology nurse practitioner. “I met nurses from all corners of the world. It was a privilege to work with them and learn about how they care for patients with the resources they have.”

This was the first year that Brigham and Women’s Hospital was asked by the U.S. Department of State to partner on the intensive CNE and CME Primary Care program and lead educational sessions on a variety of topics. The program was organized by Emergency Medicine International and the Neil and Elise Wallace STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation. About 600 physicians, physician assistants, nurses and nurse practitioners from 130 countries attended one of four week-long sessions, held in Lisbon, Portugal. They completed annual education requirements and learned about advances and updates relevant to the care they provide.

Marina Donahue, NP, of Endocrinology, traveled to Lisbon for the first session to lead lectures and breakout discussions on the care of diabetes patients. “I was honored to participate,” she said. “I learned so much about the nurses who care for embassy staff and families and the challenges that some of them face, depending on where they are located.”

For example, the team noted that staff at embassies in remote areas do not always have access to many resources or even colleagues to talk with.

“Some of the nurses are alone in their posts, and the nearest physician can be hours away,” said Harris. “It’s so important for these nurses to hone their physical assessment skills because they are the eyes and ears for the physicians to let them know if a patient needs help now or can wait. Nurses need to have confidence in their practice to do this.”

During her lectures and breakout sessions, Harris spoke about cardiac pharmacology, specifically updated aspirin, cholesterol and hypertension guidelines and recommendations. Just as Donahue experienced, Harris received many questions about what people should do if they didn’t have certain equipment she was describing, such as an appropriately sized blood pressure cuff.

Colleen Smith, NP, of Endocrinology, participated in the last session of the conference. She covered basic diabetes care, pharmacology related to diabetes and case studies during the three breakout sessions per day.

“I was excited to share our expertise and learn more about what their practice is like,” she said, noting that this was her first diabetes presentation after spending much of her career in cardiology and the ventricular-assist device program (VAD) at the Brigham. “It’s so amazing to be at the Brigham and to be asked to participate in such unique experiences.”

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