BLAZING A BOLD TRAIL
Tina Shapiro Stoler, BSN ’82,MSN ’91, spent the first 23 years of her career working virtually around the corner from the University of Miami. She’s covered a lot of ground since then, both geographically and professionally.
Stoler built a solid career at Miami Children’s Hospital, managing responsibilities in perioperative family and staff education throughout the hospital. With longtime colleague Jeannette Diana-Zerpa, MSN’93, she developed the first nurse-practitioner-managed nitrous oxide analgesia program inthe nation, which inspired similar programs around the country.
Then Stoler fell in love with an international businessman, now her husband, and moved with him to South Africa. Though she had nearly a quarter century of professional experience, gaining permission to work there was alaborious 18-month process. “I discovered how difficult it can be to use your skills in a foreign nation,” she says. “So I urge nurses who are interested in working on a global level to do their homework first.”
After winning certification, Stoler became an instructor for first-year nursing students at the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg. “Though English is the official language, more than 20 languages arespoken, so my students couldn’t always understand me,” Stoler says. “And many of their health care practices are what we would consider alternative—from herbal therapies to witch doctor spells.”
Stoler initially encountered a seemingly impenetrable reserve among her students. They were, she recalls, skeptical of her motives and her qualifications—yet so subservient they would not meet her gaze. “So I took my time and maintained an open-door policy,” she says. “Gradually, they realized that I truly wanted to help them and knew what I was doing.”
Stoler went on to Netcare, a private health care and health education corporation in South Africa, where she developed the organization’s first pediatric nursing course for nurses with associate degrees. “We had no books and,often, no electricity,” she says. Stoler again rose to the challenge, even finding experts around the country to help her teach the course.
Nurses who are interested in working on a global level should do their homework first.
When her husband was transferred out of South Africa, Stoler had to leave before her students graduated. “They cried and begged me to stay—it was so touching,” she recalls. “Even those who worked in pediatrics for years were so appreciative for what theyhad learned.”
The couple’s new destination: Guyana, one of the world’s poorest countries. There, Stoler volunteered with the Clinton Foundation, working closely with government officials, health care leaders, and non-governmental organizations to implement early pediatric blood tests to fight HIV.
Stoler, whose husband currently works in Israel,recently returned to work at Miami Children’s and is pursuing a PhD in nursing at UM. She’s open to further adventures in the developing world.
“Working in developing nations gives you the opportunity to make such a huge difference in people’s lives,” she reflects. Despite the considerable challenges, she adds, “I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”