Promoting health through cross-cultural exchanges

Promoting health through cross-cultural exchanges

In 2015, countries across the world adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

UW Nursing students are learning to address and make progress on Goal 3 – ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages – thanks to opportunities for cross-cultural immersive experiences in international healthcare settings.

Students participation in the Keio cultural exchange programUndergraduate students Ann Nguyen and Brennan Jones traveled recently to Tokyo to participate in Keio University’s Short-Term Nursing and Medical Care Studies program, which allows students to study the roles of nurses in Japan for one week. The program emphasizes the need for global collaboration to advance the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage. It includes students from the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and China.

“International exchanges provide students with a meaningful experience where they can step outside their life and work in the U.S. and understand nursing and their role on a global scale,” said Dr. Sarah Gimbel, co-Director of the Center for Global Health Nursing. “Facilitating international exchanges allows students to grow as individuals, students and future practitioners and researchers.”

On the first day, students observed several units in Keio University’s Hospital, such as the intensive care unit, gynecology and outpatient surgery. Then, they visited home nurses, a rapidly growing sector of healthcare in Japan due to growth of the aging population. Each student was assigned a Japanese student who acted as guide and translator throughout the week, allowing the students to have meaningful conversations with Japanese-speaking healthcare providers and patients.

Nguyen said she enjoyed learning first-hand the impact of the Japanese culture and investments has had on their health system.

“Investment in public transportation and education, healthy diet, social connection, and universal insurance coverage — through no coincidence, produce positive health outcomes and longevity only experienced by a few other countries in the world,” said Nguyen, a BSN student. “This experience has reminded me of how culture and policies influence health on both a national and global level. It highlights the need for global leaders to communicate and collaborate in order to overcome global health challenges.”

Students also had the opportunity to participate in cultural activities, including visiting a famous Shinto shrine, participating in a tea ceremony, and trying kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi.

“I felt privileged to participate in these interactions and to observe Japanese lifestyle and culture in such an intimate setting,” said Jones, an ABSN student. “I was able to make international friendships and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of our respective health care systems. I hope to apply this insight to my future nursing practice and to continue the dialogue with international nursing peers.”