Nursing for diversity

Four South African students welcomed by CSB/SJU nursing department

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February 15, 2012

By Ben Besasie '12

This semester the CSB/SJU Nursing Department reversed roles with studying abroad. For three weeks, they welcomed two faculty and four nursing students from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Students and faculty were able to learn from and about a different culture without leaving their own community. The Center for Global Education is committed to offering opportunities like this on campus for students who are not able to study abroad.

"Having students from other countries enriches our campus ethos," Joe Rogers, director of the Center for Global Education, said. "Using a short-term exchange approach helps diversify our community."

For the past eight years, CSB and SJU nursing students have been traveling to South Africa to find diversity elsewhere. This year, the students as well as faculty and staff played the host. They provided a rich experience combining academics, culture, and social experiences, allowing CSB, SJU and South African students to compare and contrast their experience.

"It allows us to gain an approach from a different cultural point of view. We learn from them," Rogers said.

Junior Madeline Burns, nursing major, learned about the differences in nursing education from the South African students. While talking about their clinical rotation in the labor and delivery floor, they discussed the different training guidelines. CSB and SJU nursing students do not need to perform any newborn deliveries, while the South African nursing students need to deliver 60 newborns to graduate.

"Delivering that many babies was very surprising, but quite eye-opening at the same time because we instantly learned how much of a positive impact these students will have in the health care provided in South Africa," Burns said.

She also found it shocking that the South African nursing students were astonished with all the computers and supplies CSB and SJU students work with on a daily basis in the classroom. To welcome the visitors, Burns invited the four students to her apartment for dinner. They ordered Gary's Pizza for the complete St. Joseph experience.

"I will be forever grateful for the time I have spent with these students and I am excited for them to show me their campus in South Africa when I go on the Nursing May-term to Port Elizabeth, South Africa," Burns said.

Senior Emily Marks, nursing major, was also intrigued by the nursing education differences. CSB and SJU nursing students need to complete about 1,200 clinical hours whereas South African nursing students will graduate with 4,200 clinical hours.

"Being surrounded by a population primarily of Midwestern Catholics sometimes limits our understanding of the realities around the rest of the world," Marks said. "Getting to learn from other cultures allows us to become more well-rounded and knowledgeable of other perspectives that exist in the world."

Gary Gillitzer, adjunct instructor in the CSB/SJU nursing department, facilitated the visit for the South African students to demonstrate the many qualities that make good nurses, no matter what the setting.

"Nurses attempt to improve and maintain the human condition and this is the same in all cultures and settings," Gillitzer said. "We are all part of an increasingly global world. We can learn from them and they from us."