Students get new perspectives in India

UIC College of Nursing Students in Panchgani, India
UIC College of Nursing Students in Panchgani, India

For two weeks in August 2017, four UIC Nursing students extended their education in the hills of India.

Graduate-entry MS students Ericka Garduno, Blair Jiang and Annie Shideler, along with DNP student Alina Kraynak, traveled to Panchgani, India, a hill station some 150 miles southeast of Mumbai. Their destination was Bel-Air Hospital and College of Nursing, where they embedded with their counterparts at the nursing school, becoming their round-the-clock companions.

Bel-Air Hospital is one of the only hospitals in India that specializes in the care of people with HIV, and their nurses are uniquely trained for that work.

The nurses took the UIC students on rounds and delivered lectures about their work with HIV patients, as well as tuberculosis patients, which continues to be a challenging disease in India, especially among those with HIV.

“This was a cultural exchange in a clinical setting,” emphasized Rebecca Singer, the clinical instructor who accompanied the students. “I think our students had to confront—and ultimately they overcame—any preconception that ‘we know better’ in the U.S. They saw differences as just that: differences.”

Students were impressed by much of what they experienced, especially the hospital’s holistic and family-involved approach to care. The first staffer a new Bel-Air patient meets is a social worker, to set the stage for care by addressing emotional and psychosocial needs. Also, admitted patients are required to have a family caregiver with them throughout their stay, giving Bel-Air staff an opportunity to educate the patient’s future care supervisors.

“In the U.S., I think we sometimes view a patient’s family as people to work around,” Shideler says, “but here I saw how useful and important it can be to involve family in care.”

The students had additional takeaways. Garduno appreciated the chance to experience diseases she will not likely see in the U.S., such as TB. Jiang appreciated the daily pace at Bel-Air, which seemed slower but also more thoughtful. Kraynak felt prepared to better understand her Indian patients here at home.

The relationship between the UIC College of Nursing and Bel-Air Hospital goes back to 2004, when faculty in the college’s Global Health Leadership Office helped to develop the Bel-Air College of Nursing. In 2017, the college graduated its seventh baccalaureate class and its first master’s level class. Notably, UIC Nursing faculty were instrumental in helping to develop the master’s degree curriculum specializing in HIV/AIDS care, which is now the nationalized curriculum for any nursing school in India wishing to offer this subspecialty.