In 1985, Cynthia Edgelow graduated with a degree in nursing and “never looked back.” She has spent 15 years of her career dedicated to the field of gastroenterology and was involved with SGNA in that time. “The support that a national society, specific to one’s field of nursing, can offer is immeasurable,” she said. “My nursing career has offered me the chance to work in different countries, different areas of nursing, teach nursing, volunteer on committees, go on a medical mission, and give back to the communities I have lived in.”
Most recently, Cynthia returned from the Middle East where she was part of a multidisciplinary, multi-cultural team tasked with opening the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, the first quaternary care facility of its kind in that part of the world. As with opening any clinic, this was a tremendous undertaking and the added layer of being overseas posed its own unique challenges.
Cynthia and her team were responsible for opening their unit, including hiring and training ancillary staff, and integrating representatives from the United Arab Emirate (UAE) to work within the facility. Most physicians and UAE employees were bilingual, speaking English as a second language, but this still required heightened communication skills among all parties. “As one can imagine, communication was extremely challenging. The key to success for everyone working together was to listen well, assume nothing, and find the humor in what may otherwise have been very frustrating!” Cynthia explained.
Other challenges included stocking the floors with appropriate supplies and teaching the staff what these supplies were, as it was a first-time experience for many of the newly hired staff. Cynthia also recalls she and her team learning how to navigate the clinic, where each outpatient floor was approximately the length of two football fields. In spite of these day-to-day challenges, Cynthia and her staff worked to build a team that respected each other’s individual cultures and became “the family that everyone had left behind.” What united them was their singular belief that “the best interest of the patient was paramount,” Cynthia explained.
The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has been open since May of 2015 and allows patients from the Middle East to receive quality care while staying close to family and home, rather than making the long journey to the United States. Cynthia’s involvement in helping open this clinic is an inspiring career milestone, but to her, success is the impact you leave on others. “Success from my perspective is providing care and leadership to the best of my ability…being a patient advocate, and enjoying every day.”
Whether you’re embarking on a journey overseas or starting a career in your hometown, Cynthia shares this advice for nurses beginning in the field: “Be curious. Learn something new every day. And never forget, to be a nurse is an honor and a privilege.”