Clinical placements

An elective in Zambia for military nursing students

Defence nurses often work internationally so must understand the global challenges to healthcare delivery. Major Chris Carter discusses the benefits of taking a group of military nursing students on a three-week elective scholarship to Zambia.
zambia

Defence nurses often work internationally so must understand the global challenges to healthcare delivery. Major Chris Carter discusses the benefits of taking a group of military nursing students on a three-week elective scholarship to Zambia

Recent outbreaks of disease, including Ebola, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, have shown the need for a collaborative and co-ordinated response to global health issues.

Essential to any healthcare system are nurses, who provide the largest part of the healthcare workforce.

Defence nurses often work internationally and must understand the different challenges to healthcare delivery, global agendas and threats.

Need to adapt

Preparing the next generation of nurses for this role cannot

...

Defence nurses often work internationally so must understand the global challenges to healthcare delivery. Major Chris Carter discusses the benefits of taking a group of military nursing students on a three-week elective scholarship to Zambia

zambia
Left to right: Major Chris Carter, nursing students Alexander Ball, Casey Petch, Shannon
Murphy, Hannah Lewis, Frances Metson and Oliver Jenkin, Major Sue Viveash
and principal tutor critical care nursing Lilian Sitwala.

Recent outbreaks of disease, including Ebola, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, have shown the need for a collaborative and co-ordinated response to global health issues.

Essential to any healthcare system are nurses, who provide the largest part of the healthcare workforce.

Defence nurses often work internationally and must understand the different challenges to healthcare delivery, global agendas and threats.

Need to adapt

Preparing the next generation of nurses for this role cannot be achieved solely in a classroom, so we recently took a group of nursing students on a three-week international scholarship to Zambia, a low- to middle-income country in sub-Saharan Africa.

The second- and third-year students attend the Defence School of Healthcare Education, co-located at Birmingham City University.

Choosing to undertake an international elective at any stage of your career requires you to be a risk-taker – you will experience a different culture, need to adapt to an unfamiliar environment, and be exposed to different professional experiences and conditions not commonly seen in the UK.

Bespoke training

In the six months prior to the trip our students undertook a bespoke training package to prepare them for their placement. This included an introduction to tropical medicine, an insight into building cultural competence, some basic awareness in midwifery skills, and the opportunity to explore the professional and ethical issues that could be a challenge when working in the developing world.

The students were encouraged to consider their motivations and intentions in working in a resource-limited environment, and during an Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility exchange they met the head of school and a principle tutor from Zambia’s Lusaka College of Nursing.

This allowed students and faculty members to ensure the scholarship was appropriate for both organisations, and that the activity was not seen as voluntourism.

Life-changing

To enable our students to reflect on their experiences and evaluate the programme as it evolves, they will be blogging about their experiences in real time. This will be followed up with a student-led symposium that will further explore the effects of undertaking this elective.

If you are considering an international elective, preparation is essential. A useful guide, called Working Internationally, has been produced by the RCN, Médecins Sans Frontières, Voluntary Service Overseas and the Royal College of Midwives.

An appropriate elective provides a life-changing opportunity to observe our nursing colleagues responding to the health needs of their nation, and to explore global health issues together.


Major Chris Carter is chair of the RCN Defence Nursing Forum

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