Learning Through Observation

On their recent mini-mester to Spain, two School of Nursing and Health Studies students get a first-hand look at the nursing profession while also being immersed in a new culture


THEY SHADOWED a nursing staff in an operating room, spent three days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and pediatric area, and observed the emergency room staff at work during their last few days abroad. Yet for freshmen School of Nursing and Health Studies students Valerie Halstead and Charlotte DiMaggio, it was these varied clinical experiences—combined with the breathtaking sites of Barcelona and its surroundings—which made their recent mini-mester to Spain truly unforgettable.

The School of Nursing and Health Studies partners with the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) to offer students and faculty opportunities to learn about nursing from health care systems in other industrialized countries. Academic and supervised clinical interactions allow students to broaden their knowledge in specialty areas including medical-surgical nursing. Students also apply and synthesize basic science knowledge and skills that foster ethical, legal, and culturespecific health care.

“This very rewarding experience opened my eyes to the similarities and differences of health care in the United States and in Barcelona,” says DiMaggio. “We also got the chance to see a different culture—and many beautiful monuments—that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”

“Following the nursing staff in various areas at this small hospital offered me the exposure to diverse areas from a different perspective,” adds Halstead. “I was able to grasp the role of the nurse and various medical staff more easily through observation.”

For ten days last June, DiMaggio and Halstead commuted by train to a small hospital affiliated with Fundació Althaia in Manresa, about 90 minutes from Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city.

In this clinical setting, Halstead and DiMaggio witnessed a wide range of medical treatments and procedures including gastric by-pass surgeries; a knee replacement, a C-section of twins, and a breast biopsy.

“In the NICU, I saw how to care for the high-risk babies. I watched as they took blood specimens and observed tube feedings. I was not able to touch the babies in this specific setting unfortunately, but it was still very informative just to observe,” recalls Halstead.

Although the students were limited in the tasks they could perform due to their lack of clinical experience, they were allowed to perform simple tasks such as handling tools, holding babies, and applying medicine under the nurse preceptors’ supervision.

Johis Ortega, Ph.D. (c), A.R.N.P., M.S.N. ’06, B.S.N. ’02, nurse specialist, director of clinical placement, and director of international programs, believes such practical experiences are invaluable for nursing students “since it gives them a real taste of what it’s really like to work in a clinical setting.”

DiMaggio agrees: “These experiences were really beneficial since they gave me a glimpse at the simple, more mundane tasks and the more complicated, exciting tasks. Overall it gave me a glimpse into the future.”

“This was an rewarding experience and one I would repeat if I could,” Halstead adds.