Nursing Without Boundaries

University of Miami nursing students traveled to Chile to experience transcultural nursing firsthand.

While South Florida boasts a vibrant mix of cultures and languages, there's nothing that equals the experience of studying abroad and immersing yourself in another country's traditions and daily way of life. That's one of the reasons the School of Nursing and Health Studies offers an international mini-mester program.

"It's eye-opening to expose students to health care practice under a system that lacks the vast economical resources we often take for granted in the United States," says program director Vivian Fajardo, Ph.D., A.R.N.P. "One-seventh of the U.S. economy- the largest in the world-is devoted to health care," she adds.

This past January,students applied their skills and gained an international perspective on nursing care by visiting naval and community hospitals during three weeks in Chile. The lessons learned often transform students' perspectives of health care and nursing.

University of Miami students who participated in the recent trip agree. Eric Joseph Rosario, who will graduate in May and hopes to go into either surgery or an area of nursing that will benefit from his computer background, says he now appreciates "how we provide health care in the United States. We have more governing bodies and more protection for patients and nurses, as well as more technology." For example, Rosario says that while it's standard in the U.S. to use new tools for each surgical procedure, in Latin America such expensive resources are reused.

At the same time, students saw how such resourcefulness could be an asset. It taught nursing student Jeanette Marrero, who went on the trip to experience nursing outside of the United States, that "you don't have to have the best and most-recent technology in order to provide successful, effective care." She notes, "We have it easier because of technology. They have to be more inventive." Fajardo adds that in countries that have limited resources, "Patient care really depends on clinical assessment to guide practice-not costly diagnostic evaluations, which sometimes replace the basic clinical picture of the patient."

The experience,says Fajardo,who is already receiving inquiries about the next trip,provides students with knowledge and new skills that have direct clinical applications and will undoubtedly impact their future nursing practice.

"Our students established relationships with Chilean nursing students and instructors that helped them recognize that nursing is a profession without boundaries," says Fajardo.

Marrero says the experience was truly an international exchange of nursing knowledge. "I think they were just as intrigued with us as we were of them. We learned so much from each other."