NUR 480 students meet with the director general of CHAI in India

Broadening Nursing Horizons: NUR 480 Students Reflect on International Placements

16 October 2013

Four weeks of clinical experience abroad was a time of personal and professional growth for the undergraduate nursing students in NUR480: Critical Perspectives in Global Health Nursing.  In debriefing with faculty this past September, each student reflected on their journey from the classroom in Toronto to the patient care they provided throughout Grenada and India.

“This experience was the high point of my life – sign me up for whatever’s next,” says Laura Muraca who spent her placement in Grenada.  “Working in the local community and interacting with patients in their own home and answering questions while providing care on their health issues was so rewarding.  The people we worked with in Grenada took their health care seriously and while not everyone had access to the kind of care that we have in Canada, there are similarities between both countries in the desire to manage their health effectively.”

Lauren Cosolo was one of the students who went to India.  Through a strong partnership with the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), Bloomberg Nursing was once again able to offer students an opportunity for an enriched international experience.  CHAI, India’s largest non-governmental organization in the health sector, oriented the students to the Indian health care system before the placements began at the Karunalayam Care and Support Centre for Children, an urban and rural Primary Health Centre, the Bhongiri Guru Nilayam and the Vijaya Marie Hospital.

“We learned a lot about the social determinants of health in our lectures but this placement really highlighted how those factors play a role in each person’s health,” says Cosolo, who has returned to start a full-time job in the trauma unit of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.  “It was also impressive to see the resources government puts into providing primary health care in remote areas of India and their focus on reaching a high number of people.”

Preparing the students for the health care infrastructures they would be working in, and the practicalities of living in an international setting, the Faculty provided a number of information sessions before the departure date.  Among the resources provided was an opportunity for NUR 480 graduates to share their experiences and what the new group should expect.  For NUR 480 student Jane Merrifield, this was an opportunity to gain greater understanding of “health challenges in advance and how best to handle them” while recognizing that “clinical days in Toronto are quite different and it’s beneficial to work with the structure of whatever setting you’re in.”

Back in Toronto to begin their nursing careers, the students acknowledge the impact of this international exposure is sure to have on their work, especially with the diversity of patients within this richly multicultural city.

“This experience helped us to define what health means at an individual level and to know what questions to ask patients,” says Meaghan MacInnis, who also spent her placement in India.  “Understanding the patient’s background and what their health care “norms” may be can really add depth to an assessment and can guide our plans for the best patient care.”

In the midst of their NUR 480 placement in India, students were interviewed for a documentary filming in the area.  A Home Away From Home is a touching look at children’s experiences from four places: a home, a deaf school, a railway station and an HIV/AIDS centre and also discovers their world through their eyes by using disposable cameras.

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