Nursing graduate Andrea Young '09 (Webster, N.Y.) was faced with a challenge: how does an American nurse provide healthcare for patients when they can't speak English? Studying abroad in Helsinki and Budapest showed her the way.
"It's about taking that extra step to make patients comfortable. You can still have a caring relationship, even if you don't speak the same language. Non-verbal communication is key," Andrea said. "My experiences abroad made me appreciate people who go out of their way to communicate with me." Studying in far-flung cities gave her skills to use on the post-surgical floor for GYN patients at Highland Hospital here in Rochester.
Andrea was one of the first to take part in the Atlantis Program, an exchange with Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland and Semmelweis University in Hungary. The program strengthens Nazareth's focus on transcultural nursing, which considers the ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds of all patients.
The languages aren't the only things foreign: classes are structured differently from those in the United States. "In Europe they separate lectures and clinicals—it's called Learning by Developing. In Finland, I was in class for a month and then worked in a maternity clinic for five weeks," Michelle Baldwin '10 (Port Crane, N.Y.) explained.
"I learned the importance of individualizing healthcare. You can't necessarily give a shot to one child the way you'd give it to another," said Michelle.
Both nursing students found personal attention in the classroom and the hospital. "I planned out what I wanted to focus on with my professors. And in my clinical, I followed a tutor nurse, who was not only my tutor, but my mentor as well," Michelle said. "You can learn so much more when it's one-on-one like that. I gave vaccines, administered developmental tests, and listened to the heartbeats of fetuses."
In addition to nursing classes, students are required to take Finnish and Hungarian, two of the world's more difficult languages. "Learning the languages helped me to function in society, whether I was ordering food or reading the street signs. Basic Hungarian was especially helpful because most people don't speak English," Andrea said.
Andrea's travels have taken her to England, Ireland, Russia, Sweden, Estonia, Spain, and Turkey. "I experienced these countries I never would have picked out of the blue. The people I met have been so kind and open, and the friendships I made will carry through the rest of my life."
Is a transcultural nursing adventure right for everyone? Andrea said, "If you're a nursing student with a sense of adventure, an interest in seeing the world, and a willingness to be flexible, this could be one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do."