College offers international experience

College of Nursing students Mina Young BSN ’11, of Mazomanie; and Lindsey Walker BSN ’11, of Appleton, weigh a child during the June 2010 trip to Uganda. Photo by Patti VanderLoop

An expanded international clinical program means more University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing students will have the opportunity to gain cultural understanding and even develop a better awareness of their own culture.

In spring 2010, Patti VanderLoop, clinical assistant professor; and Jill Collier, assistant professor, took a group of 13 students to Busoga University in Iganga, Uganda, for a three-credit course entailing 126 clinical hours.

“Clinicals are a time when students get actual, hands-on experience in different patient settings,” VanderLoop said. “The clinical for Uganda focused on community health — promoting health and wellness in different populations.”

While this was the College of Nursing’s first international clinical experience in Africa, nursing students have had the opportunity to gain clinical experience in India for the past three years.

“They learn the importance of communication and recognize the differences in values. Every single student walks away with a new perspective,” VanderLoop said.

Collier said that the African instructors shared knowledge about their role and their abilities to work within their funding sources. The students saw nurses working in expanded roles out of necessity, much like nurse practitioners do in the U.S.

“Our students learned much about the Ugandan culture through interactions with the Busugo students and tutors, including the limitations of providing healthcare in a developing nation,” Collier said. “We are grateful they were willing to share their knowledge with us, as well.”

Lindsey Walker, a senior nursing student, of Mazomanie, was inspired by professor VanderLoop’s recounts of visiting Uganda. “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, so it was the perfect opportunity,” Walker said. “The biggest culture shock was the healthcare system. It’s not very advanced, so it was very hard to adapt to what they have and what they believe.”

Walker and her fellow nursing students worked in hospitals with Busoga University nursing students. They also participated in clinical outreach programs, focusing on prenatal care and went to urban and rural schools to teach hygiene and how to prevent and recognize the signs of river blindness.

Walker said she gained confidence in approaching people from other cultures. The most rewarding aspect for Walker was seeing how their work was making a difference in both the short-term and long-term.

“When we first got there, the nurses didn’t use any kind of comfort measures for women in labor, so we showed them how to rub patient’s backs and taught them breathing exercises and new positions to relieve the pressure in the back, Walker said.

“Before we left, we saw some of the nurses applying those techniques. We actually made an impact.”

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