Elizabeth Weeks, a faculty member at Davidson County Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina, and Susan Thornton, a second-year student in the College’s nursing program, returned recently from a nearly two-week trip to Ghana where they were helping to establish a study abroad program for Davidson County nursing students. During their trip, the two made visits to several orphanages, hospitals, prenatal clinics, and rehab centers to spend time connecting with nurses at those facilities and to observe the practices and conditions within the Ghanaian nursing community.
The fundamental reason for Weeks’ and Thornton’s trip to Africa, however, was to determine how Davidson County Community College can create an ongoing study abroad program for its nursing students. Ghana is the starting point but DCCC would like to establish study abroad programs in other African countries as well.
Weeks stated that there is quite a bit that American nursing students can learn from their Ghanaian counterparts and that there are abundant opportunities for DCCC nursing students to experience the way cultures in other parts of the world deal with disease and infirmity and practice healing.
Both Weeks and Thornton say their greatest interest was in seeing how nursing care is administered in other countries, particularly those that exist in conditions so vastly different from what they are accustomed to in the US.
The facilities that they visited had neither running water nor air conditioning and both say that the experience caused a paradigm shift regarding how they view their profession. Thornton said that her experience in Ghana caused a dramatic change in the way she plans to map out her nursing career in that she is interested in educating and treating populations both in the United States and in other parts of the world that are underserved or that don’t have the resources that are available in larger metropolitan areas in the US.