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‘Nursing is pretty universal.’ Navicent Health, Japanese nurses work together in exchange program

The cities are different. The hospitals are different. The food is different.

But when nurses from The Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon and Japan’s Kurobe City Hospital work together as part of an exchange, the fundamentals of how they care for patients are the same.

“Nursing is pretty universal. No matter where you go, the basics are the same,” said Chaka McGruder, nurse director, The Medical Center, Navicent Health. “The technology may be different or how we document (patient information.) Those things may be different, but just truly caring for another person, that is the same.”

The two medical centers have embraced the differences and the commonalities as they have participated in a medical exchange for 16 years.

The exchange is an extension of the Macon-Bibb’s sister city program, which started in 1977 with the support of the YKK company, according to a press release from Navicent.

YKK has its manufacturing headquarters in Kurobe and it has a plant in Macon.

Each summer, three physicians and two nurses from Macon visit the Kurobe City Hospital for two weeks. Then six resident physicians, a nurse and a healthcare provider from Kurobe come to work and learn at Navicent Health and Mercer University, the release said.

This fall, Rie Kurihara, a registered nurse who works in the hemotology oncology ward in Japan, is making the rounds with Jennifer Brownlee, also a registered nurse, and others at the Luce Heart Institute at Navicent.

Kurihara is part of the team, which includes six physicians and a dietician, visiting Macon for four weeks this fall.

She said she wanted to participate in the exchange program because she’s eager to learn more about how to improve the pace of her patients’ recoveries.

“In Japan, most patients in hemotology oncology have such a long length of stay, but in America, I heard (after) such a short stay, patients go home,” Kurihara said through an interpreter. “So I wanted to actually see it, to see what’s the difference.”

Tom Oliver, MD, chief clinical officer and chief operating officer for Navicent Health said “there has been a free flow of innovative ideas and ways to provide patient care” during the exchange.

Dr. Oliver also said the benefits of the program reach beyond the hospital’s walls.

“I believe the biggest impact of this program has been the cultural exchange between Japan and our community,” he said “Anytime we have the opportunity to learn about other people and cultures, it enriches us as a people and promotes diversity and inclusion.”

McGruder had an opportunity to travel to Japan for the medical exchange a few years ago. She said the time she spent there helped enrich her culinary taste. She admits the different food was a bit of challenge at first.

“I had to adapt. Although I like seafood, I like it fried. But since I’ve been back (home), I love sushi now, love noodles. So I found that there are some (new) things that I really, really love to eat.”

By the Numbers

In the 16 years of the exchange, Macon has welcomed:

  • 81 residents and healthcare providers
  • 14 nurses
  • 5 paramedics

Kurobe has played host to:

  • 44 doctors
  • 20 nurses
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