Cuban professors to bring new ideas during campus visit

nicholls-state-university-RN-BSN-degree[1]Juana Daisy Berdayes Martinez, dean of Nursing at the University of Havana, and Maurenis Elejalde Calderon, professor of Nursing at the University of Havana, will be visiting Nicholls State University Feb. 22 through Feb. 23.

The first day will begin with the professors touring campus and Ayo Hall, followed by an opportunity to sit in on various classes beginning Tuesday morning. During their two-day visit to campus, the professors will also be sharing ideas about health care with nursing faculty as well as students. Velma Westbrook, Dean of Nursing and Allied Health, said that the professors are going to share teaching strategies from their undergraduate level program.

“We’re also going to ask them to share their health care delivery program in Cuba, some of the prevalent disease entities that they have to deal with, their best practices for nursing there, as well as some of the challenges,” Westbrook said.

University President Bruce Murphy’s mission to Cuba, sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities last fall, prompted this initial visit.

“It’s a pilot program,” Murphy said. “When Gene and I returned from Cuba, we had an open gathering of faculty, staff and students to discuss ideas. I said I would like faculty and staff to get together, and decide if there is something you would like to do, which could be cooperative research, student exchange or faculty exchange. So, this is what the nursing program came up with.”

Nursing seemed like the “ideal” program to head start Nicholls’ collaborative effort due to the universal nature of medicine as a whole.

“When it comes to health care, it is a common language across this world, and we all have to talk the same language.,” Westbrook said. “So I think that because Havana has been closed, and is recently been opening up, there’s a lot that we can learn by sharing what we’re doing in each of our countries.”

The introduction of a different cultural perspective also provides a new aspect of learning for nursing students at Nicholls, and the hope is that broadening the scope of health care can assist in preparing students for practicing in the real world. “I also think we need to look at our local community as a global community because there are many various ethnicities that make up our local community, nationalities,” Westbrook said.

“So I think it broadens our students’ and faculty’s perspective on culture and how that impacts health care.”

This brief faculty exchange also offers Nicholls nursing students an opportunity to learn about a different model of health care not practiced in the United States.

“It’s a much more economical way of providing health care,” Murphy said. “If you live in the same area, your doctor has known you for a long time. They make house calls, and if you need a higher level of care, then that doctor refer you to another facility. It’s a communist country, and ours is a capitalist country. Our health care system is designed for people to make profit at various points in the health care system, theirs is designed to have everyone get the basic level of care.”

This visit offers a positive outlook for future exchanges between Nicholls State University and Cuban universities, but the next step in the process for other programs is not yet known. Still, Murphy looks forward to this exchange as a gateway to more collaboration in the future.

“Whatever department wants to take advantage of this opportunity, we can contact them, making the whole process much easier the next time,” Murphy said.

On the other side, the visiting professors expressed the desire to come to Nicholls to grasp working knowledge of teaching styles in the United States.

“If you are the best athlete in Cuba, you’re just going to get to be a coach. You haven’t learned to be a coach. If you’re a world class ER nurse because you grew up in the field, you won’t know how to teach it. Kids just grow up doing it, but they don’t know how to teach it. So they see networking with the United States as a gateway to learning how can we be better at teaching this? They want to see how different subjects are taught and how to deal with classroom management,” Jeanne Murphy said.

February was decided as the “best time” to host due to the labs being up and running, providing the visitors with an up close and personal view students in action. However, the process to organize the trip has been “slow” and “difficult” since returning from the trip to Cuba.

“It’s been very difficulty because there is still a lot of bureaucratic red tape. We had to go through public and government funding to get flights and all this stuff to work. They have to be reviewed and looked at. They have to be selected and anointed to travel. So, we’re taking it step by step,” Murphy, said.

“It’s so impressive to see how hard they work with so much less than what we have, and they do want to get better.”

Several nursing faculty members have expressed interest in traveling to Cuba, but nothing concrete has been discussed in detail.

“We hope that this grows. Ultimately, we hope our faculty will down there, and we’re hoping that from this visit, we will have faculty members who will want to go visit there too,” Murphy, said.

This “crawl, walk, run process” is a part of Murphy’s internationalization initiative for Nicholls State University.

“That means increasing the number of study abroad opportunities, but it also means bringing international students here. We hope that some day we can have Cuban students attending our programs. We have not decided on the approach, but it is an open option,” Murphy said.

The push towards internationalization is a step in the direction of improving Nicholls as a whole, making the university an attraction for students from various places, and providing increased interest in all the programs Nicholls has to offer.

“I’m looking for how do we make our programs even better, not just have some opportunities for our students. If we have students who want to go to those other places for the experience or have students from there that want to come and get the world class nursing augmentation, I think that would be a great add on, and if we could use that in other programs that would be great too,” Murphy said.

Meghan Nicholas, The Nicholls Worth
January 29, 2016

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