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Immersing students in international nursing experiences

South Africa

In 1999, the Euro currency was introduced, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above the 10,000 mark for the first time, the six billionth living human in the world was born and Villanova nursing travelled to Peru for the first health promotion nursing experience. In the mid 1990’s the College of Nursing convened an international advisory committee to explore international experiences for our students. Fast forward to 2017. Today, nursing education accreditation agencies require global healthcare as an area of core knowledge for nursing practice in Baccalaureate education (AACN, 2008). Baccalaureate-prepared nurses are serving an increasingly culturally diverse community with very complex health care needs. Villanova College of Nursing offers opportunities for undergraduate students which promote the understanding of globalization, cultural sensitivity and the varied nature of the health care needs of vulnerable populations. Students may select an elective course or a fieldwork experience in countries including Peru, Ghana, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Poland, Japan, China and South Africa.

The goals of the elective course experience include promoting cultural sensitivity, comparing international and domestic health care systems, exploring the role of the nurse, identifying bio-statistical and political influences on health and defining the effect of cultural norms on health. We partner with a university in country so our students may observe nursing education first hand. The students tour hospitals, clinics and alternate therapeutic modalities sites. Students present a health care topic in a classroom or lab setting or at a conference sponsored by the host university. Students may present health promotion information in local schools or community centers. The course also focuses on cultural immersion. Perhaps students will visit a historic site in South Africa, be guests of a local family for a meal in China or join a group of elders on a hike in Japan. Student comments about the experiences include; “I am excited about the possibility that I may be able to run a similar clinic later in my career”, “I truly saw the negative effects of HIV/AIDS first hand”, “I am more aware of the health differences and needs between those of different economic statuses”, ”We are taught about the importance of providing culturally competent and sensitive care to every patient we encounter, and this experience added a new dimension to this practice.”

The fieldwork experience in health promotion is a one week experience that focuses on providing health promotion education. Topics may be directed at increasing the knowledge base of the local health promotors or providing information to the general population. In Ghana, we partner with an orthopedic training center where children and adults come to receive prostheses and education. In Nicaragua, we partner with the health promotors and in Peru we prepare education for both the promotors and the general public. Sometimes the students have access to a classroom and technology for the presentations and sometimes our audience gathers on a playground or in the middle of a sugar cane field. Student comments about the experiences include; “I was stunned by the lack of access to basic health care resources and education, and was astounded by the hospitality and sense of community that I experienced”,It was . . . very fulfilling to notice several members of the community completely engaged, writing down information from my presentations”, “It was truly eye-opening to see the poor conditions that these people live in and it was truly inspiring to witness and learn from their kindness, faith and positive outlook”.

Thus far in 2017, famine is declared in Unity State, South Sudan, affecting 4.9 million, the world's oldest golf club Muirfield in Scotland, votes to admit women as members for the 1st time in 273 years, France bans too thin fashion models and makes labeling of digitally enhanced photos mandatory and Villanova Nursing continues to immerse students in international nursing experiences that impart global awareness, cultural sensitivity and perhaps plants the seed for a future global health leader to emerge.




“I was stunned by the lack of access to basic health care resources and education, and was astounded by the hospitality and sense of community that I experienced”