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Nursing students gain health care experience abroad

During the winter break, 20 seniors from the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies spent two weeks in Spain participating in an intensive study abroad program about transcultural nursing.
School of Nursing and Health Studies students in Spain

Students with the School of Nursing and Health Studies in January spent two weeks in Spain as part of an intensive study abroad program.

When Jerusha Jean walked into a hospital room at the Hospital Universitario Quirónsalud Madrid, she found a patient crying, awaiting a doctor’s visit. Gently putting her hand on the patient’s shoulder, Jean offered consolation. Despite the language barrier, the Spanish patient understood her sentiment and reciprocated with a calming touch.  

In that moment, Jean, a senior studying nursing at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, felt a reinvigorated passion for providing care for others. 

“Interacting with the patients on that level confirmed that I was in the right profession. I had more of a sense of appreciation and pride to say, ‘I’m in the field of nursing’ after this program,” she said. 

In the beginning of January, 20 seniors in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program spent two weeks in Madrid, Spain, as guests of the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. 

The students were enrolled in the elective Global Health: Transcultural Nursing, an immersive experience in an international setting that is followed by online activities and face-to-face meetings. 

The intensive 14-day curriculum allowed students to observe nursing care in several units at the Hospital Universitario del Sureste and Hospital Universitario Quirónsalud Madrid, including wound care, endoscopy, emergency medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, pulmonology, and endocrinology. 

Senior Alison Skubik attended rotations at the Hospital Universitario del Sureste. Skubik’s experience in Spain magnified the similarities and differences in the health care systems abroad versus in the United States, and helped her supplement her in-class learning at the University with a wide variety of clinical experience. 

“Since we had the opportunity to do a lot of clinical rotations in so many different units while there, I saw a lot of procedures and got a lot of experience I wouldn’t have during a typical rotation in Miami,” Skubik said. 

Mihaela Florea, a coordinator and wound care unit nurse at Hospital Universitario Quirónsalud Madrid, said the nurses in each of those hospital units were happy for the chance to welcome students from the University, share their clinical experience with the future nurses, and practice their English-language skills in the health care environment. 

In addition to having supervised clinical interactions at both hospitals, students attended lectures about Spain’s health care system and took part in a human anatomy lab taught by Universidad Francisco de Vitoria faculty members. 

“We spend a lot of time focusing on the books, but it is a completely different experience when seeing it right before your eyes,” Jean said of her time doing a rotation in an endoscopy unit. “It was truly such an incredible experience for me.” 

For Sydney Stropes, a senior studying nursing and religion, the elective course provided her the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study abroad while continuing her degree path—something she thought she’d never get the chance to do because of the pandemic. This was the first study abroad trip for undergraduates offered by the School of Nursing and Health Studies since the start of the pandemic.  

“Studying abroad was always something I wanted to do in college,” Stropes said. “When the opportunity to enroll in this class was presented to me, I realized I could study abroad without leaving campus for a semester. And I loved that it was an opportunity to learn about transcultural nursing, which I hadn’t explored before.” 

Stropes also acknowledged how differences in culture can be drastic when it comes to providing health care and is grateful for the opportunity to experience and learn about it through the program. 

In addition to getting an immersive look at transcultural nursing, the students agreed that connecting with their peers and exploring the culture of Spain together was an enriching experience. 

“Being together as a group was really fun. As much as we spend a lot of time in class together in Miami, going together to grab tapas after clinicals, sitting together and getting to know each other while getting to experience all the Spanish culture together was really nice,” Stropes added. 

The ambitious educational itinerary gave participants the invaluable opportunity to develop their understanding of health care systems and care delivery models outside of the United States, said Johis Ortega, an associate dean and professor at the school, who led the expedition. 

“Students are very excited our school has reinitiated its study abroad programs,” Ortega added. “Opportunities like this enrich their personal and professional lives immensely.”