We’re lucky to have established a strong link with the University of Pittsburgh (PITT) in the USA, sharing with each other ideas about the development of simulation in nurse education. As a result, we created a programme of student exchanges which aim to develop knowledge and understanding of nursing, and the role of the nurse from an international perspective. The two-week visit allows students to spend time both in classes at PITT and observing clinical practice in the USA.
We’ve been catching up with the group of second year (Level 5) students who were successful in their application to be part of the PITT visit and spent two weeks Stateside in September.
The Adult Nursing, Child Nursing and Mental Health Nursing students were accompanied by two academic members of staff, Kim Moore and Lisa Taylor, who supported the group throughout the two-week clinical visit.
What did you enjoy most about your time in Pittsburgh?
CLAIRE: I enjoyed experiencing the different learning styles of a nursing degree programme in Pittsburgh and comparing it to our nursing degree course as well as learning about the health care system in America. It was also great to spend time with students in the different fields of nursing from BCU, making friends and discussing our field of expertise to further our knowledge of experience and understanding in other fields. Likewise, I liked meeting with other students of Pittsburgh University at timetabled organised events and classes.
FRANCESCA: I enjoyed talking to different staff and students and gaining an insight as to what it was like to study and work in America. I also enjoyed learning about the American culture and discovering both the similarities and differences. Lastly, I enjoyed seeing different tourist attractions as the country had a lot a lot to offer from a historical and visual aspect.
STEPHANIE: As a student children’s nurse, one of the highlights for me was the tour of the children’s hospital and then having an observational experience there. The children’s hospital is relatively new and has small but effective facilities and equipment which stood out. These included a fantastically designed MRI room and scanner which encourages the children to feel more relaxed and have a better experience. Sedation medication had dropped by around 75% since designing the room in this way, which was a massive shock! The TV’s at the bed space could be set up with child friendly features explaining about their condition to help children to not feel as scared and have a greater understanding about why they are in hospital.
LUCY: My favourite part of the trip was spending time in the cadaver lab and feeling around different parts of the body, tendons, organs and dissecting parts. I also enjoyed the WISER simulation where we had the opportunity to intubate dummies in three different ways. This makes me feel that I could now have some knowledge about intubation when I witness it. In addition, being able to spend time with the students from the different fields of nursing was really interesting as I learnt about the differences in learning and practice that we all have. It was really amazing to have placement shadow opportunities at the Presbyterian hospital, and see the differences in care given.
How does academic life and professional practice in the US compare with your experience in Birmingham?
CLAIRE: Students studying in America have experiences and learning taught in all fields of nursing throughout their programme and chose their area of interest once qualified.
FRANCESCA: Academic life differed as in the USA; the nursing programme is four years long compared to our standard three-year program. I noticed that there was a lot more emphasis on academic work and less on the practical element. Though there is an academic element in the UK, practical and academic work is split 50/50. When shadowing a qualified nurse, it was apparent that the technology was state of the art, as a lot of the equipment was electronically based. Their system seemed a lot less chaotic and more organised. However, there could be room for improvement when comparing nursing practice. This included bedside manner, effective use of resources, manual handling and infection control.
STEPHANIE: The observational experiences at the hospital gave us a real insight to the American healthcare in Pittsburgh. We saw some of the incredible technology they have and how this helps to reduce errors in the hospital.
LUCY: The sorts of lectures and educational training that the American students receive differed quite heavily from us. We go straight into learning the physiology of children and adults whereas they start with learning compounds and gases in chemistry for understanding the basics of human beings. Also on the wards the students travel in larger groups with lecturers from the university out on the wards with them to help teach. Their clinical level is much lower than what we are used to; we go out onto a clinical placement after 10 weeks at university whereas they do not go into clinical situations until their second year.
What advice would you give to a health students considering taking part in an international experience?
CLAIRE: Go for it! It is a truly invaluable experience, one that should be taken when the opportunity arises to further learning and gain a wider cultural experience.
FRANCESCA: Take the opportunity and embrace the culture that you’re going into. This should include keeping an open mind, ask loads of questions and to have fun as not everyone gets this opportunity.
STEPHANIE: I would recommend Pittsburgh to future students. We had an amazing and busy timetable planned for us. We were able to experience and learn so many things we would not have the opportunity to in the UK. I spoke to and learnt from American students in the university and nurses on the wards. You also have the chance to get to know students from Birmingham studying different fields of nursing and we learnt so much from each other. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to experience Pittsburgh and strongly recommend applying!
LUCY: It’s definitely an opportunity worth applying for! It didn’t cost that much more than what the bursary covered for flights and accommodation. It was such an insightful trip and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Find out where you could go
Our nursing and midwifery students have opportunities to visit countries around the world through the Faculty’s Go Abroad scheme.