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Kent State University at Salem Students Study in Switzerland and Tanzania

Posted Dec. 12, 2011

Nursing students participate in experiential learning

enter photo description
Kent State University at Salem nursing student Christi Kugler
works with a patient in a Tanzania orphanage. Kugler along
with other nursing students from Kent State Salem traveled to
Switzerland and Tanzania as part of their coursework.

Ten nursing students, along with two faculty members, visited Switzerland and Tanzania as part of their coursework.

The goal of the class, Transcultural Nursing and Healthcare, was to provide students the opportunity to explore global health issues, intercultural concepts, self-awareness of personal discrimination, stereotyping, and issues of racism and privilege.

“We live in a global society, and the goal of Kent State University’s college experience is to help prepare students to function in this society,” says Mary Lou Ferranto, assistant professor of nursing and program director for Kent State University at Salem’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). “An excellent way to do this is to provide experiential learning experiences.”

Ferranto says experiential learning experiences are important for health care practitioners.

“This type of experience is especially important for nurses because they care for individuals from all cultural, racial, socioeconomic, political and religious groups, as well as individuals of all ages and sexual orientation,” she says.

The experience was led by Ferranto and Sarah Smiley, Ph.D., professor of geography at Kent State Salem. The group began their trip in Geneva, Switzerland, where they attended private pre-arranged seminars at the World Health Organization, the International Refugee Center and the United Nations. While in Tanzania, the students provided nursing care to patients in orphanages and HIV clinics. They also spent time at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center.

Junior nursing student Pam Mackos describes how the students used their skills, “We performed basic health assessments, and I was so excited to use some of my nursing skills. I felt like it was a great learning experience on so many levels — emotionally, socially and physically,” she says. “I was given the opportunity to work with children and a different culture — two things I have not experienced in my nursing education. It was tragic to bond with some of the children and to later find out that three were HIV positive.”

The students experienced a variety of emotions following time at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, one of the best medical facilities in Tanzania and surrounding countries. Premature babies were kept in wooden boxes heated by light bulbs for warmth. Mattresses, lying side by side on the floor, held mothers who had just given birth. Rooms were overflowing with patients and families supporting their loved ones.

“The lack of equipment and shortage of nurses were only part of what was so upsetting. However, what impressed me was that the nurses were unconditionally gracious, bright, loving, cheerful and doing the absolute best they could in their situation," Mackos says.

In addition to volunteering at clinics and orphanages, the students visited a village of the Maasai people. They also were invited by Tanzanian friends to attend a wedding celebration in Moshi, Arusha. “In Rombo Village, we observed Chagga people and a traditional bride homecoming ceremony,” says native Tanzanian and senior nursing student Lillian Kavishe.

Reflecting on her experience, Mackos says, "We are so fortunate to have what we have in the United States. Even people living in poverty here are more fortunate than most of the people in Tanzania. The trip single-handedly confirmed the direction in which I want to go with my life. I want to be a nurse, travel internationally and holistically improve the lives of everyone I encounter.”

Ferranto says future national and international experiences are planned. Domestic trips will focus on Indian Health Services in South Dakota and Alaska. Future international trips are being planned for Guatemala, Tanzania, Eastern Europe and Asia. The education-abroad trips are open to all Kent State University students regardless of their major.

For more information about Kent State Salem’s bachelor’s degree in nursing, contact Ferranto at 330-337-4273.