UD students work closely with the staff at a community hospital in rural Faridibad, India, as part of a Global Clinical Internship this summer.

Global Clinical Internship

Nursing students provide care in rural India


10:37 a.m., Sept. 8, 2015--A group of sophomore and junior nursing students from the University of Delaware interned this summer at a community hospital in rural Faridibad, India, in a project led by Carolee Polek, associate professor in the School of Nursing. 

The students were placed on units throughout the hospital, including the Intensive Care Unit, the Emergency Room, the Cardiac Catheterization Lab and the Operating Room. One student’s patients on a General Medicine floor ranged from an hours-old newborn baby and the baby’s mother to a 108-year-old. 

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The physicians and nurses at the hospital embraced the students, inviting them to assist with patient care, scrub in on surgeries, and ask questions about procedures. Physicians taught the students to interpret X-rays and craniotomy imaging. At the same time, the clinicians at the hospital were eager to learn from the UD students about differences between American and Indian nursing education, and from Polek about clinical procedures used in American hospitals. 

Emily Market, a junior, said, “They wanted us to explain how every procedure and practice compared to those we use in the United States. For example, the safety and infection control precautions used there are very different from what we use in the U.S.” 

After each clinical day, Polek and the students traveled 45 minutes by bus to their housing. They used the travel time to further explore situations they were exposed to during the day.  In many cases, the junior students were able to provide education to the younger students based on field experiences and nursing courses they have had that the sophomores haven’t yet. 

“The students really directed the path of our discussions," Polek said. "They would say ‘I saw this today’ or ‘We are wondering about this’ and those questions would dictate our learning.” 

The students said they were struck by public health concerns and spent much of the time learning about community resources and environmental issues, such as water and air quality. 

Polek said, “The students not only had the chance to work with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patient in the clinical setting, but to explore the factors in the community that may impact the disease process and patient experience. They also learned about efforts taken in communities to mitigate these risks. For example, they were required to wear booties into the hospital to lessen the amount of dust tracked into the building.”

The students said they also were intrigued by cultural differences discovered during their conversations with clinicians and patients. For example, Polek said, the students observed Emergency Room physicians explaining the costs of treatment before patients and families made healthcare decisions, a scene rarely observed in American healthcare settings. 

Polek said the hospital staff “rolled out the royal red carpet” for the students, introducing them to the hospital’s medical director and to many community members and patients who had never before met Americans. “Our students were interested in talking with everyone -- from housekeeping staff, to lab technicians, to the hospital surgeons. I think the students’ genuine interest in the people there created an incredible learning opportunity for all of us.”

“I think the experience helped me to learn to be more flexible," Market said. "By getting out of our comfort zones and being forced to roll with the punches, we learned about how much we could handle, and the importance of being open to other cultures.”

Outside of the hospital, students had the opportunity to travel through the Golden Triangle, visit the Taj Mahal, witness a Hindu blessing ceremony in Varanasi on the Ganges River, ride elephants, camels and get mehndi (henna) tattoos. 

This was Polek’s first trip abroad with students and, when asked if she would go again, she said, “I would go to the exact same sites with the exact same partners. This trip was truly perfect.”

The program was one of the newly formed University of Delaware Institute for Global Studies’ Global Clinical Internships, which ran for the first time this summer. Seventy-nine students interested in gaining hands-on healthcare experience at global sites participated in the for-credit programs, which will be identified on student transcripts as they work toward professional employment and future education.  

Article by Sarah LaFave

Photos courtesy of UD nursing students

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