Deborah travelled to Pittsburgh to experience nurse education in the US
One of the many things I’ve loved and really engaged with as I’ve taken on the challenges of being a student nurse is the opportunity to talk to other students; learn from them, compare teaching priorities & strategies between different nursing schools and exploring the core themes which draw us together despite these differences, most notably the desire to be the best nurse possible.
When I won the Cavell Nurses' Trust scholarship award I decided I wanted to take this further, I applied to go an exchange trip between my university and the University of Pittsburgh Nursing School in Pennsylvania USA. This trip would give me the opportunity to explore not only the differences & similarities between UK and US nurse education but also to look at the US healthcare system in comparison to the NHS. The clinical opportunities were small but the implications for my own continuing education, as well as getting new ideas to share with my university & student nurses from around the UK, were too good to pass up.
The School of Nursing at University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is ranked one of the best in the USA and boasts not only a very successful undergraduate nursing programme but also multiple Master’s degree streams, PhD opportunities and also a growing range of Doctor of Nursing Practice courses. Seeing as how I’ve already got my eye on a MSc or PhD programme later on in my future, before I’ve finished my BSc in Nursing I was very excited to see the scope of opportunities available to the graduate nurse.
As a group of students from the UK we attended a variety of lectures across the spectrum of the 4 year nursing programme as well as sampling the extensive skills simulation areas the student nurses at Pitt have at their disposal. Working in pairs we delivered a mannequin baby, explored the 3 dimensional dissection videos and attempted to intubate a state of the art interactive sim-man.
A real highlight of the trip was the opportunity to take part in a poverty simulation with the senior class of Pitt nursing students. Each student was allocated to a fictional family struggling to make ends meet in the lower income bracket of society. We had to work together to prioritise putting food on the table, paying the rent & utility bills, ensuring children were cared for & attended school and managing the challenges life can throw at us all. This really highlighted the difficult decisions some families have to make regarding their medical expenses and taking care of their health, for many the addition of an expensive trip to the family doctor or emergency room would tip their already precarious finances into freefall and it made me even more grateful for the NHS.
My 2 clinical days were spent shadowing nurses on a cardiology unit and a medical intensive care unit. This gave me plenty of chances to ask questions, explore the differences in our practice and share ideas. I was very impressed with the paperless charting and other technological advances available to the American nurses and they in turn were intrigued by UK initiatives such as the 6 C’s of nursing and field specific nurse training from an undergraduate level.
It wasn’t all hard work- I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Pittsburgh’s industrial past, visiting the impressive Carnegie Natural History Museum & the stunning Cathedral of Learning (think skyscraper meets Hogwarts with lots of classrooms & study spaces hidden inside) as well as making friends with nursing students and qualified nurses alike over the American classic of a baseball game.
The trip to Pitt School of Nursing has opened my eyes to new ideas in nurse education & practice and the connections I have made will help me in my career to come. I want to say a huge thank you to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust and the scholarship award judging panel for giving me the chance to go on this trip and explore this fantastic profession in another country.