Staffing and curricular issues responsible for the holdup
News | Jenny Hudalla
Nursing students furthered their education by spending a semester in Uganda during fall 2013. The program has been put on hold until faculty can refine it to best serve future students. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Casie Ecklund
Kirstin Paulson was sitting on her bed in Arden Village when she received the email that informed her and 41 other junior nursing students that the fall 2014 study abroad program to Uganda had been canceled.
“I was extremely upset,” Paulson said. “Ever since freshman year, I’ve been working to get good grades and putting so much thought and prayer into this trip and then that dream was crushed.”
Although the Uganda program was initially offered as an interim trip, the department launched a pilot semester-long trip last fall. Despite its success, the Office of Academic Affairs decided more time was needed to evaluate the program before it could be offered again.
According to Pamela Erwin, associate dean of professional programs, the decision was made based on staffing and curricular issues and is not connected to Bethel’s broader financial struggles.
“This situation is completely different from NYCAMS, which was canceled as a program altogether,” Erwin said. “The Uganda trip is simply not going in fall 2014, because we need time to evaluate last year’s pilot program and make the experience even better for nursing majors.”
Senior Casie Ecklund, who was part of the fall 2013 trip, said it’s a shame that next year’s seniors won’t have the same opportunity she did.
“The clinical experience we got in the hospitals in Uganda was unbelievable,” she said. “We had our pediatric and obstetric rotations, so we saw a lot of babies being born. Our patients were so humble, too, so it was really cool to teach them about their health and how to promote it.”
Traditionally, the trip has offered nursing students the opportunity to take four Bethel courses at Uganda Christian University while gaining critical knowledge in obstetrics, pediatrics and public health. However, because students are required to take nursing licensure exams, it is essential for them to be accompanied by professors who have both U.S. and Ugandan experience in those three areas.
According to Beth Peterson, chairperson of the nursing department, there are not enough faculty members able to go next fall, and the department also needs time to restructure some of the course content to better implement it in a Ugandan context.
“There are certain things we need to include in courses to prepare students for U.S. nursing practice,” Peterson said. “But when we take students to Uganda, we want them to learn from that healthcare system, too. It’s just a matter of putting the two together.”
Further conversation with leaders at Uganda Christian University and identification of faculty able to commit to the program will be key to the future of the program. Erwin said that while she knows many junior nursing majors are very disappointed, another year of preparation is the best option for current and future students.
“Since this fall was a pilot program, we want to build on that experience,” Erwin said. “We want to make the Uganda semester study abroad even stronger and one that we can continue for the long haul.”