Nursing faculty from Japan visit St. Kate’s to promote cultural exchange

The visitors from Kansai Medical University toured campus and met with nursing faculty and students.
Two faculty members from Kansai Medical University pose with St. Kate's faculty and staff in thee simulation lab.

Kansai Medical University faculty Reiko Kato, PhD, dean of nursing, and Fusako Takahashi, nursing lecturer, visited with St. Kate's students and faculty in October. 

In October, two faculty members from Kansai Medical University in Hirakata, Japan — Reiko Kato, PhD, dean of nursing, and Fusako Takahashi, nursing lecturer — visited St. Catherine University to tour the campus, meet with faculty and students in the School of Nursing, and foster an exchange of ideas between the institutions.

This was not the first time the two universities have connected — the relationship between St. Kate’s and Kansai Medical University goes back several years. In addition to her role as dean of nursing, Kato is also director of the Japanese Society of Child Health Nursing (JSCHN), as well as head of the society’s international exchange committee. As a part of an advanced practice nursing seminar for the committee, Kato invited St. Kate’s assistant professor of nursing Nicole Beckman, PhD, to deliver remote lectures for JSCHN members in 2021.

Kato has also visited St. Kate’s before. On her visits, she was particularly impressed by St. Kate’s nurse educator program. In 2018, as professor, Kato helped establish the nurse educator program at Kansai Medical University, where it is one of only two in Japan. 

“One of the wonderful things about nursing is that it is a globally recognized profession and community,” said Kara Koschmann, PhD, associate professor and assistant dean of graduate clinical nursing. “The standards and the skills are similar, and cross a lot of language and cultural divides. We have a lot that we can learn from each other.” 

During this most recent visit, faculty from the two schools discussed their shared challenges, including the nursing shortage affecting both the United States and Japan. The shortage is in part due to a lack of qualified nursing educators — something that nurse educator programs can combat. 

The visitors and hosts also remarked on the differences between the programs in the two countries. For instance, in Japan, nurse practitioners are educated at the master’s degree level, while the nurse practitioners at the doctorate level are more common in the U.S. Other cultural differences pointed out by Kato and Takahashi include the diversity of both St. Kate’s students and simulation lab equipment, as well as the parent-friendly nature of St. Kate’s campus (in Japan there is more separation between school and family life). 

Koschmann, who was present for the visit, says that even in a time of increasing digitization, in-person visits can offer a deep understanding that is not always possible remotely.

“I think it’s beautiful to see that an in-person visit and relationship is still valued in a world where it’s so much easier to hop on a Zoom call,” said Koschmann. “You can’t really get the essence of what we’re doing here if you do that, so their ability to walk our campus and see our library and see our students interact with faculty can be an inspiration for them to see how we do things differently, or similarly!” 

Kato plans to return to St. Kate’s with a group of faculty and graduate students from Kansai Medical University for another visit in 2025, and hopes that faculty and students from St. Kate’s will visit Japan, too. 

“The relationship between our universities will help students discuss and develop international thinking,” said Kato. “I look forward to the continued cooperation between both universities with the view to working together toward a more global mind for nursing education and research.”

Suzanne Lehman, DNP, interim dean of the School of Nursing, agrees that the visits offer valuable learning experiences for everyone involved. 

"Global collaboration and conversation is an essential part of making sure we are serving the world's needs for excellence in nursing and healthcare,” said Lehman. “The ongoing relationship between St. Kate's School of Nursing and the Graduate School of Nursing at Kansai Medical University is an example of how we can partner to share our strengths and envision new opportunities for the future."