Nursing exchange program builds links with rural Canada

Published 06 August 2009

aimeeThree student nurses who arrived late last month at the University of New England have an opportunity to compare nurse education programs and hospital facilities in New England, NSW, with those in North British Columbia, Canada.

The three students are the first to arrive in Armidale as part of a newly-established exchange program between UNE and the University of North British Columbia (UNBC).

Shannon Joyce, Aimee Deorksen and Karen Lucas, who are in the third year of their four-year Bachelor of Science (Nursing) program at UNBC, will be studying alongside second-year nursing students at UNE throughout Semester 2 and undertaking placements in NSW health care facilities.

Dr Penny Paliadelis, the Course Coordinator for Nursing at UNE, explained that one aim of the exchange program was “to build collaborative and scholarly links with a similar-sized rural university in Canada”. She and the UNE nursing program’s Clinical Coordinator, Jackie Lea, have been collaborating with Associate Professor Penelope Barrett and Dr Lela Zimmer at UNBC to establish the exchange program, which will soon enable a group of UNE nursing students to travel to Canada.

“Like UNE, UNBC is a regional university dealing with regional issues,” Mrs Lea said, and Karen Lucas pointed out that the population of North British Columbia – like that of northern NSW – included a high percentage of indigenous people.

Dr Paliadelis and Mrs Lea visited UNBC last November, and Dr Barrett, who is a UNE graduate, visited UNE in March this year to plan for the program and talk to potential exchange students.

“I’ve always wanted to do an exchange,” said Shannon Joyce, who lobbied for the exchange program, “but, when I went into nursing, I found that it wasn’t possible. So I began to talk to people in charge about getting the program started.” And the students agreed that the Australian destination was also an incentive. “Everyone at home wants to visit Australia,” they said.

The students from both UNE and UNBC will live in residential colleges attached to their exchange universities – giving them ample opportunity to socialise with other students. The academic program will enable them to gain theoretical knowledge as well as practical experience in gerontology, maternity, and mental health.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Aimee Deorksen displayed here, taken in UNE’s Clinical Laboratory, expands to include her fellow UNBC exchange students Karen Lucas (centre) and Shannon Joyce with “model patients”.