Gain Global Health Perspective

Nicole Hamel
Nursing alumna Nicole Hamel '16 learns about acupressure, a traditional Chinese medicine technique believed to release tension and reduce pain.

By Karen Angelo

Srayluckyna Thach '16 jumped at the first global academic experience she could get. 

“Not too many nursing programs offer the chance to study abroad,” says Thach, who recently traveled to China with seven other nursing students and two faculty members on a cross-cultural exchange experience. “I was able to integrate academia with my love for travel. It was an amazing experience.” 

The 18-day study abroad program, part of the university’s Global Health Experience course, was designed to give students an international health perspective as they compared the Chinese healthcare delivery system and culture with those from the U.S. It was offered in partnership with Shandong University’s School of Nursing, one of China’s top nursing schools. 

Asst. Prof. of Nursing Yuan Zhang, who is from China, Clinical Asst. Prof. Valerie King and the students attended nursing seminars, visited hospitals and community health centers and learned about traditional Chinese medicine and culture. The group also explored the country's history, geography, tradition, people and spirituality. 

Nursing students explore China
Hamel and master’s nursing student Kathleen Marion ride a cable car to Tai Mountain in the Shandong province of China.
Students and faculty wrote about their experiences on the Global Health Experience blog. See more photos on Facebook

Family Health Nurse Practitioner student Kristen Babicki says she learned a great deal about Chinese culture, education and medical resources. 

“One big difference in China is that all medical tests are discussed and agreed on in a family meeting with the doctor, even in an emergency setting,” says Babicki, who has served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force. “The hospitals I worked at in Iraq and Afghanistan were very similar to those in China. Patients are in an open-bay concept with family members attending to their daily living activities like washing, ambulating and feeding. I think that the social support that the patients and family members receive is something we undervalue in the U.S. We may have less crowding in U.S. hospitals, but the feeling of isolation is real among admitted patients and something we should work on.” 

For recent graduate Nicole Hamel '16 the experience underscored the importance of understanding cultural differences when treating patients. 

She says: "We have always been taught in school that you must always be mindful of cultural differences. I now have ideas for different practices that I could try here in the U.S. such as massage therapy for pain management.” 

Zhang, who lived in China for 25 years before arriving in the U.S. nine years ago, coordinated the trip with her alma mater, Shandong University School of Nursing. 

“I am hoping that this trip provided our students with a professional and personal lifelong memory of China.”