When Genesee Community College nursing students, Natalie Wedge and Crystal Fial traveled to Brisbane, Australia in April of this year for the first-ever nursing exchange program, they departed as college students but returned as confident nurses. The six-week nursing exchange program with Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane took place from April 1-May 14, with just enough time back in the States for the two women to take their final exams and attend their graduation from the Nursing program at Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY.
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. These women were part of the inaugural group of students/faculty to participate in the international exchange program.
Crystal of Darien, NY and Natalie of LeRoy, NY finished their Genesee Nursing degree by doing their required Nursing Preceptorship in Australia at Princess Alexandra Hospital, a “magnet” hospital that provides a high level of health care service similar to Strong Memorial Hospital.
“I was pleasantly surprised that there really was no difference in bedside manner,” Natalie noted. “And I really enjoyed working in ‘pods’ with other nurses. The ‘pods’ were made up of three nurses who communicated during the shift as they took care of three to eight patients.”
Deborah Carrasquillo, RN, MS who teaches 200-level medical and surgical courses at Genesee traveled with the students and acted as the U.S. nurse educator and program liaison. This was her first time traveling to a foreign country beyond Canada and she was very empowered by the entire experience. “Overall I found myself in a leadership and mentoring role,” Deborah said. “I not only could lead and mentor Natalie and Crystal but I also worked with Southbank staff to show them how we structured our programming back in the U.S.”
Natalie and Crystal worked at the hospital Monday through Thursday and also completed course work equivalent to two independent study courses. Natalie worked in on a medical/surgical floor with dementia and end of life rooms, while Crystal worked in an eye unit that was dedicated to patients with eye problems and care.
In their spare time, which was few and far between, they experienced the city of Brisbane and the surrounding areas throughout the state of Queensland. They enjoyed trips to the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo), Tambourine Mountain, the beaches of the Gold Coast and participated in Anzac Day activities on April 25, the equivalent to the United’s States’ Memorial Day.
“It was just an amazing experience,” Deborah said. “We enjoyed the people and the country and the Australian people were very welcoming.”
“We not only learned about the people of Australia and their culture,” Crystal said. “But they wanted to learn about our American culture and we were happy to share it with them. This was a chance of a lifetime and a great experience. I really feel like I developed an inner strength and I’ve become more independent since returning.”
Both Natalie and Crystal have taken positions at Rochester-based hospitals upon their graduation. Natalie has take a nursing position at Rochester General on the 4800 floor and Crystal will be working at Strong Memorial Hospital in an orthopedic unit.
“Nursing is not the same everywhere you go,” Natalie noted. “It was so beneficial to see the differences. When I left home I was a student, but when I returned home I truly felt like a nurse.”
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Editor’s Note: A photograph of the Australia Nursing program participants at the Australia Zoo is available at: http://marketing.genesee.edu/images/Crocodile.jpg (From left to right: Deborah Carrasquillo, Natalie Wedge and Crystal Fial.)
A photograph of Natalie Wedge, Deborah Carrasquillo and Crystal Fial overlooking the city of Brisbane from Mt. Coot-Tha is available at http://marketing.genesee.edu/images/City_Overlook.jpg