Students (left to right) Natalie Steele

Student nurses take UFV training to Belize

While universities can offer great teaching, it’s a proven fact that many great learning opportunities happen during hands-on situations. And when you can make that hands-on situation occur in a country other than your own, it opens many doors for the adventurous student.

The University of the Fraser Valley is introducing a new course option that will allow its senior nursing students to travel to Belize on a field study tour. Nursing instructor Sheila Edwards says the newly introduced International Nursing option is a three-credit course that combines 20 hours of classroom study with a two-week study tour to Belize.

Belize is the perfect country for a nursing study tour, explains Edwards, as it has a fairly stable political landscape and is an English-speaking country. It is, however, a very poor nation that struggles with health issues such as malnutrition, dysentery, and malaria. It also has a busy university that teaches health sciences, and has multiple layers of hospitals and clinics that will allow the UFV student nurses to see how health care is provided in other countries. Edwards says the learning opportunities are endless.

“I travelled to Belize last year, to see if a program like ours would work there, and it seems ideal,” Edwards says. “It is a very different culture that that of Canada, but it is an English-speaking country and is relatively peaceful and a safe place to travel to.”

Belize, formally British Honduras, is still part of the British Commonwealth and it still has a strong English presence in the country. It gained independence in 1964, changed its name to Belize in 1973 and became an independent nation in 1981. For Edwards, it offers the perfect combination of cultural diversity, security, and learning opportunity.

Edwards met with instructors from the University of Belize last year  and has ironed out all the details for the study tour.  The students will have lots of opportunity to learn, while also enjoying  some of the tourist destinations unique to the Central American country.

The student nurses leave in early May and while there they will visit a 120-bed tertiary hospital and an 18-bed private hospital in Belize City. They will also visit a Mission hospital in the town of San Ignacio, where they will be based for much of their stay. Their visit coincides with International Nurses Day, so they will also be able to participate in events dedicated to celebrating nurses, and attend Ministry of Education health workshops. Students will also visit with local residents, assess the health of family members, and propose health promotion strategies to help families.

“One of our objectives of the study tour is to explore the similarities and differences of nursing roles and nursing education between Canada and Belize,” Edwards says.  “While visiting the hospitals, they will be there basically as observers, but they will also have the opportunity meet with nurses, and other nursing students, and directly see what nursing is like in Belize.”

Edwards has done lots of background work with UFV administration, the International department, and within the Faculty of Health Sciences to get the study tour approved and up and running.

While sounds like a lot of fun, is the experience will also count as a three-credit course, and the student nurses will be asked to report on basic issues like how the customs and beliefs of the residents can affect general health care, and the impact of Belize health care policies, and its delivery system, on the health and well-being of the countries residents.

“I expect our students will learn a lot in the short time that we are,” adds Edwards. “And they will see different styles of medical care, and health care issues,  that I can talk about in a classroom, but could never demonstrate them as well as what they will see while in Belize.”

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