Nursing Students Study Health Care in Northern Ireland
When senior nursing major Shellee Wandel studied abroad in Northern Ireland last summer, she learned more than just the basics of health care in a different country.
“After speaking with one particular patient about her life, family and health, I realized the human condition is truly universal,” Wandel says. “We all experience love, disappointment, life and death. I don’t know why this impacted me the way it did, but hearing someone in another country relate similar experiences within their social context was unique.”
Wandel was one of a group of students who participated in the yearly study abroad class “Comparative Health Care: Nursing in Northern Ireland.” The program began in 1999 with Kent State and the University of Ulster exchanging nursing students.
“Students going to Northern Ireland have the opportunity to compare the nursing profession in a national health system with the insurance-based system in the United States,” says Ruth Ludwick, nursing professor and director of international initiatives for the College of Nursing. “Studying abroad gives students a new ‘lens’ to look at their world, allowing them to examine stereotypes that they may have about Northern Ireland and explore their own political, religious and educational values.”
Wandel says being able to see the health care system of a different country helped her to better understand health care at home in the United States.
“It’s one thing to read about how individuals interpret experiences of ill or good health; however, to see it firsthand and compare to what I have experienced here in the United States is another,” Wandel adds. “It has broadened my outlook on health care disparities and programs implemented within a ‘socialized system’ and our health care system. Each system has a unique set of problems.”
Ludwick says there are three distinctions between health care in Northern Ireland compared to the United States.
“The biggest differences in Northern Ireland’s health care are the blending of health and social services, the value placed on communication and the overt rationing of health care,” Ludwick says. “In the United States, rationing is much less overt and is based on ability to pay and insurance plans.”
Senior nursing major Erin Metcalf says her experience in Northern Ireland made her thankful for the education she is getting at Kent State.
“It made me feel like I am getting a great education at Kent State, let alone, in the United States,” Metcalf says.
Metcalf documented her experiences and photographs from her trip on her Web site. She says she highly recommends traveling abroad if given the opportunity.
“What better time to travel across the world than when you are still a part of an organized program that can introduce you to one part of the world without trying to attempt this on your own?” Metcalf says. “It was a great learning experience that will positively influence my practice after I graduate.”
Wandel agrees. “[This program] has been a defining moment in my life,” she says. “I highly encourage everyone to step outside of our country to see how the world views us and to experience another culture.”
By Olivia Mihalic