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USF Nurses Work To Expand Global Reach

06-13-2008
Bach Mai

Bach Mai teaching hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam is one of several with which the School of Nursing is working to establish faculty and student exchanges.

Moves by the School of Nursing to set up exchange and immersion programs abroad could bring desperately needed nursing skills to developing countries, while opening a window onto the lives of the world's poor for University of San Francisco nursing students.

The programs, all of which are still in the planning phase, are meant to expand nursing faculty and student outreach to the less fortunate and often forgotten overseas, said Judith Karshmer, dean of the School of Nursing. Karshmer began pursing several out-of-country opportunities shortly after returning from a leadership immersion conference last summer in Nicaragua -- the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The immersion was meant to increase the sensitivity among USF administrators to the heart-breaking struggles of the 3 billion people around the world who live on less than $2 a day, and to heighten the global perspective within which instructors teach students, according to USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. "This perspective invites (students) and (faculty) to embrace and respond to the hopes and dreams of the vast majority of the world whose constant struggle is simply to stay alive for another day," he said.

Organized by Fr. Privett for USF vice presidents and deans, the immersion was a wakeup call to the university's leadership that USF should be doing more to help those who live in extreme poverty worldwide, Karshmer said. After spending a week wading through trash dumps that some Nicaraguans are forced to call home and talking with subsistence farmers, former Sandinistas, and government employees, she returned with renewed motivation to broaden USF nursing opportunities abroad.

"I want to improve our connections with the global society, particularly with Asia where much of the world's population lives," said Karshmer, who is already pursing immersion and/or exchanges in Africa, Belize, China, and Vietnam. "Our students can go there, be of help and bring back experiences that improve their education."

In Belize, where University Ministry has worked since 2004, the School of Nursing begun strategizing with local leaders to implement the Belizean national health and science curriculum in schools, which, because of resources, has never been put into action, said Susan Prion, EdD, who will lead the School of Nursing's efforts in Belize.

If all goes well, students could be on the ground working in clinics to improve patient care and efficiency, as well as educate nurse leaders within six months, Prion said. "I am excited that USF students from all disciplines will develop a better understanding of the impact of community-based work, and the importance of holding the broad definition of community," she said.

Adjunct nursing instructor Greg Crow is leading efforts in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he and graduate nursing student Kristine Mizutani spent a week at the county's premier teaching hospital, Bach Mai, over the winter intersession.

As in many of the countries that the School of Nursing hopes to work in, nurses in Vietnam receive the equivalent of a vocational degree so "professionalizing" the career with a broader curriculum background is a major focus of USF's efforts, said Crow, who has received tentative approval for two USF nursing faculty to visit Vietnam next January. "(Bach Mai) has specifically asked for help improving teaching methods, curriculum, and computer laboratory research skills," Crow said.

He hopes in the near future that USF is able to reciprocate by hosting two Bach Mai faculty, then grow the relationship to include a student exchange, Crow said.

Mizutani, a graduate student in the clinical nurse leader program, sees the intercultural exchange as something nursing faculty and students at both USF and Bach Mai can benefit from. "For example, we (in America) could learn how to slow down a bit and look at other models of care and take what works from those models and adapt them for our settings," she said.

Still being developed are similar relationships in Yancheng Jiangsu, China and Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa, where many rural residents must travel for hours, or sometimes days, to reach a hospital or medical clinic, Karshmer said.

Improving nursing skills in developing countries meshes well with USF's commitment to diverse perspectives and traditions as essential components of a quality education, Crow said. "The way I look at it, nurses care for the world; and if we're going to do that, the richest countries in the world need to help the poorest countries."

Written by Written by Edward Carpenter »usfnews@usfca.edu