Technology brings the world to Global Health students

28 February 2012

PTB Lecture - Feb 2012

Jean Wilson, a Toronto-based primary health care NP at St. Michael’s Hospital, speaks to the class as Gladys Saburi, a TB nurse in Zimbabwe,
is broadcast via Skype.

Beginning in September 2011, Bloomberg Nursing widened the scope of the nurse practitioner (NP) program with the addition of a Primary Health Care – Global Health area of emphasis, completing the full range of programs offered through the Master of Nursing and Post-Master NP Diploma options. One of the challenges faced by course coordinators and instructors was connecting students to the world beyond the classroom, as well as integrating those studying by means of distance learning. Professors Monica Parry, director of NP programs, and Shirley Musclow, virtual curriculum support, have taken opportunities to incorporate a variety of technologies into the program, including virtual classrooms, voiceover presentations, lecture capture and webcasting.

Selected classes are streamed over the Internet to ensure distance learners have the opportunity to participate in live discussions. Students sign-in to a virtual meeting space, in which they can interact with fellow students and with their instructors. Mindful of time zones, work schedules and other commitments, lessons are also recorded and made available online so students can access them and learn according to their schedules.

In February, Parry, Musclow and Naomi Thulien, Primary Health Care – Global Health coordinator, went even further. They arranged for a local expert, in conjunction with a guest speaker in Africa, to present during the same two-hour lecture period on tuberculosis (TB) to a group of NP students enrolled in the Pathophysiology and Pharmacotherapeutics course.

Parry met Gladys Saburi, a TB nurse in Zimbabwe, during a visit to the Faculty. As they talked, exchanging information and ideas, Parry asked if she’d be interested in sharing her knowledge and experience with students in the program. “Meeting Gladys presented a wonderful opportunity to introduce someone at the forefront of TB care to students, and to discuss how the infectious disease is handled in another country, contrasting it to the care we provide in Canada,” says Parry. “This way we could bring the social and societal determinants of health into our local classroom discussion.”

To localize the subject and give students some perspective, Thulien asked Jean Wilson, a Toronto-based primary health care NP at St. Michael’s Hospital, to participate in the lecture. She discussed TB pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment, and was able to provide students with an understanding of how the Canadian health system manages the disease.

The speakers worked together to create a comprehensive presentation that complemented each of their specialties. After pre-empting any technical gaps, Saburi was broadcast into the classroom on an LCD screen through a Skype connection with two-way communication abilities. The collaborative PowerPoint presentation was displayed on a second screen next to it. Wilson opened the discussion, while Saburi presented two cases from her clinical setting, offering insight into real-life patient experiences and TB management in Africa. Wilson and Saburi then answered students’ questions regarding case management, comparing diagnosis, treatment and the logistics of providing TB medication between the two countries.

Everyone’s hard work paid off, delivering an invaluable learning experience for the students. The end results and feedback were so encouraging, they can’t wait for another opportunity to “bring in” an international presenter. “This discussion gave students a true global picture of the primary health care management of TB,” says Thulien. “It was a great way to bring global health to students without going to another country or just reading about it.” Many of these strategies are still in their infancy, so one can only imagine where technology will lead them next. Other departments in the Faculty are considering ways to integrate this technology into their courses as well. Next stop, India perhaps?