1. LaRocco, Susan A. PhD, MBA, RN, FNAP


A Fulbright Scholarship provides one nurse with a yearlong opportunity in Amman, Jordan.


Editor's note: This column chronicles the author's experience teaching abroad this past year.


Article Content

In less than a week, I'll be on a Royal Jordanian flight from New York City to Jordan, an Arab kingdom in the Middle East. For the next academic year, I'll be a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Jordan, which is located in the capital, Amman.

Figure. In this map ... - Click to enlarge in new window In this map of the Middle East, Jordan and its capital city, Amman, are at the upper left. Image (C) KRT / Newscom.

This represents a significant change from my everyday life here in the United States, where I have been teaching nursing students at Curry College, just outside Boston, for more than 10 years. Prior to teaching at Curry, I taught many immigrant nursing students at community colleges in the Boston area. Learning about their customs and experiences has always fascinated me. In addition, I've always enjoyed traveling and learning about other cultures.


This opportunity in Jordan provides me with a chance to broaden my worldview and to learn more about nursing in the Middle East. I hope to genuinely get to know my nurse colleagues in Jordan and to learn how the culture influences health care delivery.



For scholars, the process of applying for and being accepted into the Fulbright Program can be long and time consuming (for more information, see The Fulbright Program). I began by looking at the catalog of proposed awards to find a country or university that was requesting a nursing scholar for the next year. In some cases, an applicant can apply for more than one award and prioritize requests; however, I was only allowed to apply for one nursing opportunity within the Fulbright Program, and the choices were limited.

Box. The Fulbright P... - Click to enlarge in new window The Fulbright Program

The position at the University of Jordan was particularly enticing, because although I've traveled extensively, I have never been to the Middle East. In addition, I knew a nurse who had been a Fulbright Scholar in Jordan, and she spoke highly of the experience.


Jordan-officially called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan-is about the size of Indiana and has historically been one of the most stable and safe countries in the Middle East. Yet its borders with Israel and the West Bank (to the west), Syria (to the north), Iraq (to the east), and Saudi Arabia (to the south) mean that this small country is directly affected by volatility in the region. Jordan is currently hosting refugees from Syria's civil war, and the actions of militant groups in Iraq are relatively nearby. For these reasons, some of my colleagues in the United States voiced concern for my safety when I told them of my plans for the next year.


The more I read about the country, however, the more confident I was in my choice. Jordan is a key ally of the United States and is known to have one of the best health care systems in the region. Living and teaching there would be one of the safest ways to visit the Middle East.



My application to the Fulbright Scholars Program included a project statement, two course syllabi, a curriculum vitae, letters of recommendation, and supporting documents. When deciding on proposed courses, I relied on my experience at Curry College, specifically in regard to quality and safety. Our nursing program helped to pioneer the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) project, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and begun nearly a decade ago. In addition, having worked with master's degree students preparing to become clinical nurse leaders, I have been immersed in the culture of hospital safety through my teaching. So, naturally, one of my proposals was for a course on safety in the clinical setting. I also suggested a global nursing course, with a focus on the similarities and differences in nursing education and practice in places such as Canada, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, and among Jordan's Middle East neighbors.


I had to submit the application more than a year before the scholarship would be awarded. With the assistance of Curry College's grants coordinator, I sent it in and then waited. Other than confirmation that it had been received, there was no further communication. Finally, nine months later, I received an e-mail with an attached letter that began, "I have the pleasure to inform you[horizontal ellipsis]" I was going to Jordan!


After I shared the news with my family and friends and the initial excitement wore off, I started to realize what a life-changing event this would be. My husband and I love living in Boston, I have a challenging teaching position, and I am immersed in the activities of several professional organizations. Luckily, my husband is retired and was more than willing to move to Jordan and share in my adventures.



Jordan is almost completely landlocked, with only about 16 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba, an arm of the Red Sea. The population is estimated to be about 6.5 million, but the war in neighboring Syria has caused perhaps as many as a million refugees to enter Jordan in recent years. Jordan has a young population-about 56% are younger than age 25. Approximately 97% of Jordanians are Muslim, and the far majority of these are Sunni. Literacy rates for both men and women are high, and a large number of women attend postsecondary institutions.1


Health problems prevalent in Jordan include obesity and overweight, both of which affect approximately a third of the population.2 At least 16% of adults in Jordan are believed to have diabetes, and another 24% are considered to be at high risk for developing the disease.2 For a country with such a high percentage of young people, these numbers are staggering. As in many countries, a sedentary lifestyle and a diet of fast food are considered to be major culprits in creating these health problems. Smoking incidence is also very high, especially among men, about 50% of whom smoke.2


Jordan has a sophisticated health care system that includes hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International, reflecting the country's commitment to excellence in patient care and safety.3 In addition to serving native Jordanians and a rapidly increasing population of displaced neighbors, Jordanian hospitals also attract medical tourists, who seek out the high-quality health care offered in the kingdom.



The largest and oldest university in the country is the University of Jordan, where I'll be teaching. There are 15 baccalaureate nursing programs in Jordan. In 2005, a doctoral nursing program was inaugurated at the University of Jordan-the country's first, and still the only one.4


Princess Muna al-Hussein, the former wife of the late King Hussein, is an honorary member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.5 She was inducted because of her longtime support of nursing education and excellence. She is also president of the Jordanian Nursing Council.6


A quick look at the nursing faculty Web page of the University of Jordan ( reveals that many members have received their doctoral degree from a school in the United States or the United Kingdom. Several have had their research published in international nursing journals.


One of the most intriguing aspects of nursing in Jordan is the large number of men who work in the profession. In the mid-2000s, about 65% of all nursing students in Jordan were men.4 By contrast, in the United States in 2011, only 9% of nurses were men.7 Because of my long-time association with the American Assembly for Men in Nursing-including serving on its board from 2002 to 2006 and again from 2011 to 2013-I find this statistic to be especially intriguing. I look forward to learning more about why so many more men practice nursing in Jordan than in the United States.



It's time to start packing. I have been assured that I will not have to wear a scarf, or hijab, as many women in Jordan do, either in accordance with their religious beliefs or for cultural reasons. However, I will need to dress conservatively, even in casual situations. Having perused the faculty pictures on the University of Jordan Web site, I see that some wear Western-style clothes, whereas others wear long, coat-like dresses and a hijab.


I am eager to begin my year in Jordan. We have been booked into a hotel, and a driver will meet us at the airport, courtesy of a Fulbright Commission-one of 50 binational groups that, among other responsibilities, support those who've received a Fulbright award as they settle into a new country. The commission will also assist us in finding a furnished apartment and in obtaining residency and work permits. In addition, it provides a week of in-country orientation that will cover topics such as safety and health precautions, cultural sensitivity, and volunteer opportunities during our stay.


After arriving in Jordan, I look forward to meeting my faculty colleagues and students, as well as to learning what nursing is really like in Jordan. Because I am still not sure if I will be teaching either of my two planned syllabi, I hope that I'll have the resources I need to be well prepared for whatever classes I teach.




1. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Middle East: Jordan. In: World factbook [electronic resource]. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2014. [Context Link]


2. Tarawneh M, Al-Qaisi S. Behavioral risk factor surveillance survey 2007. In: Non-communicable disease directorate. National registry of end stage renal disease (ESRD). Annual report 2012. Amman: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ministry of Health; 2012. p. 23-4. [Context Link]


3. Joint Commission International. JCI-accredited organizations: Jordan. 2014. [Context Link]


4. Zahran Z. Nurse education in Jordan: history and development Int Nurs Rev. 2012;59(3):380-6 [Context Link]


5. Sigma Theta Tau International. Honorary membership. 2013. [Context Link]


6. Jordanian Nursing Council. Home page [in Arabic]. n.d. [Context Link]


7. Landivar LC. Men in nursing occupations: American community survey highlight report. Baltimore, MD: U.S. Census Bureau; 2013 Feb. [Context Link]