Genesee Community College Nursing Students and Faculty Prepare to Travel ‘Down Under'

Two Genesee Community College nursing students and one Genesee nursing instructor are packing their bags and preparing for the experience of a lifetime. Crystal Fial and Natalie Wedge, both second year nursing students, and nursing instructor Deborah Carrasquillo, RN, MS, were selected to participate in an international exchange program to Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. They depart on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 for the six week study abroad trip. This is the first group of students/faculty to participate in the international exchange program.

Kathy Palumbo, director of the Nursing program at Genesee just returned from a trip to Brisbane, Australia where she met with officials from Southbank Institute as well as Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital to finalize the last minute details of the exchange program, fine tune logistical concerns and make certain the clinical experiences are equivalent.

“Genesee’s exchange program with Southbank Institute of Technology provides an invaluable opportunity for our nursing students to learn about the universal health care system in Australia as well as to experience the commonalities and differences that exist between our two cultures," Kathy said upon her return. “I believe our students are going to have a fantastic experience.”

Crystal Fial, of Darien, NY and Natalie Wedge of LeRoy, NY are finishing their Genesee Nursing degree by doing their required Nursing Preceptorship in Australia PA Hospital, a “magnet” hospital that provides a high level of health care service similar to Strong Memorial Hospital or the Cleveland Clinic. While in Australia, they will be residing in a home-stay environment with the Buckley family of Tarragindi, a suburb very near Brisbane and the hospital. Upon completing their study aboard program they will return to the U.S. in mid-May, just in time to participate in Genesee’s Commencement ceremonies here in Batavia.

“I am looking forward to the whole cultural experience of working in a hospital in a different country, and with the recent passing of our own Health Care Bill here in the U.S. it will be very interesting to make some comparisons,” Natalie said. She traveled to Kenya in 2005 and lived with a family friend for more than a year giving her a keen interest in learning about the health care needs and systems for Australia’s aboriginal population. “After gaining some general health care experience, I hope that in a few years I can concentrate in a health care outreach program that helps people who are often missed or hard to reach.”

Crystal is also very interested excited about the cultural exchange opportunity, but has her own unique travel itinerary. She will celebrate her 21st birthday while flying over the Pacific Ocean, and with the time change, she actually loses a day—her birthday, which happens to be April Fool’s Day! “We will celebrate somehow on the plane, or afterwards, I’m sure,” she said.

The young women became friends through the Nursing program at Genesee, and are anticipating making new life-long friends both together and separately in Australia. “It will be great to meet new people and hopefully have them come here to the U.S. in the near future,” Crystal said.

Deborah Carrasquillo, RN, MS who teaches 200-level medical and surgical courses at GCC is traveling with the students and will be acting as the U.S. nurse educator and program liaison in the Hospital working under the PA staff. This is her first time traveling to a foreign country beyond Canada and she too is very energized by the pending experience. “We teach and learn all about cultural diversity in the classroom, so I feel like I am really coming full circle with this trip,” she said.

Officials from Genesee and Southbank signed a Memorandum of Understanding on October 7, 2009 when Dr. Eunice Bellinger, Genesee’s executive vice president for Academic Affairs traveled to Australia and met with Craig Sherrin, Southbank’s director and chief executive officer. This document formalized a bilateral student exchange program to allow students from both countries to develop a wider breadth of knowledge, skills and strategies that underline the best practices of the nursing and health sciences industries in both countries. Ideally, College officials hope the exchange program will grow to include a cohort of up to 10 students who will travel together maximizing their shared experiences and cost efficiencies.

“This cross-cultural connection kicks off another exciting new opportunity for Genesee Community College—giving a wider reach and positive exchange for all of us,” Dr. Bellinger said. “Both Genesee Community College and Southbank Institute of Technology are leaders in nursing and biotechnology training. We both offer technology-focused, practical approaches for associate degree-seeking students yet there is so much we can still learn from each other.”

Plans to bring two Southbank students to Genesee Community College in the fall of 2010 are currently underway.

For further information please contact James Goodwin, Genesee’s director of Curriculum Development and Review at 585-343-0055 x6322.

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Editor’s Note: A group photograph of the Australia Nursing program participants is available at: Standing left to right: Nursing instructor Deborah Carrasquillo, RN, MS; nursing students Natalie Wedge and Crystal Fial; and Kathy Palumbo, Genesee’s Nursing program director.