Nursing expands study abroad opportunities

By Deborah Ziff Soriano

UIC College of Nursing faculty have expanded study abroad options for students, with courses in Rwanda and the twin island Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, and more opportunities in the works.

“This concerted effort to give our nursing students more formal study abroad experiences aligns with our vision as a college, which calls for preparing nurses who can lead change globally,” said Rohan Jeremiah, interim associate dean for global health. “While we had to take a pause from international learning experiences for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thrilled to be working on more study abroad opportunities for students.”

In 2019, clinical assistant professor Gwyneth Milbrath worked with the UIC Study Abroad Office to establish the college’s first faculty-led study abroad course. The course, Disaster Preparedness and Global Health in the Caribbean, a three-credit class in St. Kitts and Nevis, opened the possibility for more formal study abroad experiences for nursing students.

“Carving out study abroad opportunities, particularly for pre-licensure nursing students, has historically been difficult because of the structure of the nursing program, which is jam-packed and doesn’t require electives,” says Milbrath, who is also associate director of the college’s Global Health Leadership Office. “But with careful scheduling and deliberate content development, we’ve been able to develop courses that fit within the curriculum’s scope and timing.”

The experiences offered in summer 2022 included:

  • St. Kitts and Nevis: In late May, Milbrath returned to St. Kitts and Nevis with 14 interdisciplinary students from UIC. Students worked with the country’s National Emergency Management Agency on a project to survey residents about needs related to COVID-19 and food security. Co-leading the course was Audrey Snyder of the University of North Carolina Greensboro, who brought six students.
  • Rwanda: Visiting professor Pamela Meharry is faculty director for Global Maternal and Child Health in Rwanda. The six-credit, monthlong course is the first maternal and child health course offered by the UIC Study Abroad Office. A mix of midwifery, graduate-entry master’s and public health students spent the month of July there.

Study abroad experiences in development for 2023 and 2024 include:

  • Spain: Assistant professor Susan Kilroy and Milbrath are developing a summer 2023 study abroad course for pre-health and health sciences students in Pamplona, Spain. They both served as visiting instructors for a weeklong workshop on cross-cultural perspectives on health care at the University of Navarra this summer, which was attended by two UIC Nursing students from the Urbana campus.
  • Ireland: Urbana campus director Krista Jones received funding to create a proposal for a study abroad program in Dublin, Ireland. She will travel there in February to develop the full proposal, with a tentative start date of summer 2024. The proposed course will be open to health sciences students and will provide a comparative focus on healthcare systems, with an emphasis on community-based care.
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