Radford nursing students cross Pacific Ocean for transformative experiences
Seven Radford University nursing students and faculty explored international healthcare during a 23-day study abroad experience to South Korea and Taiwan.
Led by Associate Professor of Nursing Eunyoung Lee, Ph.D., the nursing students – Madison Brown, Jenny Dillon, Bailey Elkins, Mackenzie Fisher, Megan Hawken and Autumn Molden – visited healthcare sites in Taipei, Taiwan to experience nursing and Asian healthcare delivery. They also crossed the East China Sea to work with colleagues in and around Wonju, Korea.
Elkins, a junior from Lynchburg, Virginia, was struck by the volume of the patients that her Korean and Taiwanese colleagues saw.
“The hospitals we visited were crowded and intense. The patient-to-nurse ratio there was around one nurse for every 15-to-20 patients,” Brown said. “Here, that ratio is ideally one nurse to two to four patients.”
Their study-abroad experience introduced the nurses to a range of healthcare settings and experiences. The Radford nursing students visited Taipei’s St. Paul Memorial Hospital, as well as local community centers in neighboring Taoyuan and Guishan.
In Taiwan, their experiences ranged from observing labor and delivery units in a hospital setting to performing community health outreach. A unique part of the community nursing work was helping with environmental studies by bicycling around the area to gather water samples that were tested for mosquito larvae. Mosquito-borne dengue fever is a prominent local public health threat.
In Korea, the group worked at the Wonju Severance Christian Hospital, a modern medical center, that gave them additional clinical experience in emergency intensive care, trauma, pediatrics and comprehensive care. They also worked at a nurse-run community health center on the outskirts of Wonju that practiced traditional Eastern healing, as well as rural healthcare delivery.
Community centers in Asia are an expanded version of the typical American health clinic, according to Lee. At these centers, patients get vaccinations, immunizations, cancer screening and other healthcare services, and the centers serve as a nexus for community health outreach, education and environmental monitoring.
“There were many differences between our system and theirs,” said Molden, a senior from Winchester, Virginia. “The main similarity, though, was the compassion the nurses have for their patients and the care they provide, despite the volume of patients they see. Patients trust their nurses and nurses work hard to earn and keep that trust.”
Hawken, a senior from Brentwood, Tennessee, was cognizant of the impact of culture and tradition on how healthcare is delivered, but she was inspired by the common bond shared by both American and Asian nurses and their demanding work environments.
“It was a very intense professional experience,” Henshaw said. “I was indecisive about what kind of specialty I want to pursue, but the experience in the Korean emergency medicine and trauma centers made me realize that I really want to be where I can help patients at their worst.”
"The highlight was being in a completely different setting. My eyes were opened so much," said Dillon, a sophomore from New Castle, Virginia. "My passion for nursing was cemented, and I look forward to traveling more."
The six nursing students created portfolios to recap their experiences and also presented their observations about the American and Asian healthcare delivery models. This was the second trip to Asia by Radford students, and in February 2020, a group of Korean students will join their nursing colleagues in Radford for another international exchange visit.
The trip aligns with Radford University’s core mission of student empowerment and success, in which the Radford faculty engages students within and beyond the classroom to support the students' discovery and their pursuit of unique paths. Such educational experiences are central to Radford University's mission of service to all students, from the undergraduate to the doctoral levels.