Meet-Our-Alumni Series
In conversation with Professor Parveen Ali​

“The emerging areas where nurse researchers could contribute are digital technologies and artificial intelligence.”  -Prof Parveen Ali

Professor Parveen Ali’s journey of 24 years as a global nurse leader in healthcare has been nothing short of impressive. Through her dedication and achievements, she has not only made her alma mater AKU-SONAM but also Pakistan proud.  

An alumna of the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery, (BScN ’00 & MScN ‘04), Prof Ali is a woman who wears many hats and puts her heart in everything that she takes up. Currently, she is professor of nursing & gender-based violence at the Health Sciences School, University of Sheffield, and Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospital. She is also deputy director, research for the Health Sciences School, programme director for Master in Advanced Nursing Studies and editor-in-chief of the International Nursing Review – the official journal of the International Council of Nursing, ICN. Additionally, she also serves as chairperson of the UK-Pakistan Science and Innovation Network, UPSIGN, and board member of various research journals.

Prof Ali has over 100 research publications primarily focusing on domestic violence, nursing, health inequalities and ethnicity, and many international awards to her credit for excellence in research, leadership and nursing academia.

We recently interviewed her to learn more about her journey in nursing, the role of AKU in her professional growth, the future of nursing and much more! 

What are some of the biggest challenges that nursing profession is facing today and how can nursing education contribute towards the solution?

If you ask me, the biggest challenge is the shortage of well-trained nurses across the world. It single-handedly contributes to every challenge that we can think of; it impacts the way we work, the quality of care we provide to patients, our job satisfaction, and even the research and development opportunities we take up. Quality nursing education and the use of technology can solve these challenges by preparing nurses to work efficiently in dynamic and multidisciplinary leadership roles that will address the current and future needs of our healthcare system.

What areas do you think nurse researchers should focus on?

The research opportunities present for nurses are limitless as the scope of work undertaken by them is very diverse and they can contribute to not only nursing but any healthcare field. They can explore any research area within health, public health, health policy, and even social issues. 

I feel the emerging areas where nurse researchers could contribute well are digital technologies and artificial intelligence. It will be interesting to explore how these technologies can be used to provide effective health and social care services to individuals, families, and communities we serve helping us understand the contextual differences and diverse needs of the populations. It will also help our work stay parallel to other professions and services and prove fruitful to the upcoming generation of nurses as well. 

What are your fondest memories of AKU-SONAM? 

I have so many memories of the time spent at AKU as a post-RN BScN student, MScN student, and faculty member. I grew both personally and professionally at AKU-SONAM and will remain forever grateful for those experiences. The best part was making new friends, the quality time spent with them, and many learning opportunities. I remember evenings spent in the library, Learning Resource Centre, LRC, and the photocopier room! I loved having samosas from the tuck shop! I will never forget our long evening walks near the lakeside around the school and sitting and chatting on the grass with not a care in the world. I miss the tune of our national anthem that was played at all events, especially at the graduation ceremony. Would love to go back in time and relive those moments once again, if its ever possible.

How did your education at AKU-SONAM help you succeed in life? 

The education and experiences at AKU-SONAM allowed me to become the person I am today, it’s a big part of my identity. Everything I learned at my alma mater contributed to my life in many positive ways, sharpening my reflection, communication, literary and analytical skills, which equipped me to deal with challenging and difficult situations. I was able to realise my true potential due to the solid foundation given to me, serving as a springboard for my subsequent achievements. The confidence I gained encouraged me to believe in myself, accept challenges, and stand up for myself as well as others. 

DocParveenAli-6.png With Dr ​Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, during UPSIGN multi-disciplinary workshops in 2020

​How do you feel that nursing education has progressed from the time you graduated from AKU-SONAM? 

Nursing education is constantly changing per the evolving healthcare needs of the masses. It is further affected by the changing demographic and psychographics within and outside Pakistan. I feel proud to see my alma mater offer the highest quality of nursing and midwifery education at par with global standards. 

Nursing education worldwide, especially in Pakistan, has evolved significantly in the last two decades. Some major changes in education include the use and influence of technology, greater diversity of the role, and better involvement of the students and alumni. The perception of nurses improved within the wider landscape of healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic as frontline workers. 

Considered highly professional in most parts of the world, nurses are now viewed as global citizens who can and should be able to take up high-value roles across the healthcare system. Today, we must prepare nurses to meet local and global healthcare needs, equipping them to work internationally and contribute to universal health coverage targets.  

What lessons did you learn through your journey? 

Learning is a continuous process; we learn every day from everything we do.  The biggest lesson for me is having the confidence to take risks, reflect and improve myself continuously. Every challenge brings a new opportunity, it’s up to us to make the most of it. 

How do you balance the dual role of being a professor at the University of Sheffield and editor-in-chief for the International Nursing Review Journal?

I have various other roles as well. I’m the Adjunct Professor of Nursing at Dow University of Health Sciences, Visiting Professor at Khyber Medical University, and Chair of UK-Pakistan Science and Innovation Network, UPSIGN – a multidisciplinary network of British-Pakistani and Pakistani academics. 

The key to managing and balancing these highly competitive roles simultaneously is to have a clear sense of objectives, effective time management, and the ability to set priorities. Another important attribute is the ability to say no, and I do need to develop this further! (don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret). Above all, I enjoy my work and when you enjoy something, it does not feel like a job! I do have to say that use technology and online means of communication have made it a lot easier by reducing the need to commute but still stay engaged with work across the world in different time zones. 
As the editor-in-chief at ICN, what kind of stories can make the most impact to promote nursing?

The most impactful stories are about providing effective services, innovation, and collaborative practice. I encourage nurses to be boundary spanners, collaborators, and networkers. Nurses must talk about their role and what being a nurse means to them. The world needs to understand what nursing is all about and what nurses do. It’s our job to educate people about our profession to ensure they have a clear and accurate idea of nursing to break the stereotypical portrayal of nurses in the media. With regards to INR, we are interested in any articles about nursing and implications of our work on policy and practice. I will be happy to facilitate anyone interested in writing for the journal.  

How do you see the future of nursing in Pakistan and globally? What steps can be taken to improve the role of nursing in healthcare?

The progress of nursing education to a doctorate level in Pakistan is a huge milestone. Pakistani nurses, especially those educated in Pakistan, are working at important positions throughout the world and that in itself is such a powerful projection of Pakistan. Now, we must ensure that the right structures and support is available to make this change successful and sustainable. Nurses must be acknowledged for their role and contribution to the progress of the healthcare system. Nurses need to be more visible, engage with media and collaborate with other disciplines and professions to create more awareness among the masses. 

What does success mean to you and what are your future goals?
That is an interesting question. Success means being happy with oneself, being able to perform one’s role effectively, and being able to make choices. When I perform my roles in the best possible and create opportunities for others, it gives me immense happiness. 

My goal is to create opportunities for people to network, collaborate and develop. I strive to provide developmental and research opportunities for Pakistani academics in Pakistan and abroad through UPSIGN platform and through other professional roles. I don’t know what the future holds, but I like being someone who breaks traditional norms and boundaries.

What will be your message to AKU-SONAM students and young nurses and midwives?

Believe in yourself, work hard and never give up. Work for yourself, and never try to impress others. Support everyone: you learn and develop when you help others learn and develop. My final message is: Be there where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated!