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GCC nursing students benefitted from Australian/U.S. exchange program

By Billie Owens

Two students in Genesee Community College's Nursing Program went to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in April and returned in mid-May as confident professionals. Today, GCC announced that the inaugural six-week exchange program with the Southbank Institute of Technology played a key roll in completing the women's nursing education.

Natalie Wedge, of Le Roy, and Crystal Fial, of Darien, were second-year nursing students. They finished their degree this spring by doing their required Nursing Preceptorship in Australia at Princess Alexandra Hospital. It is a "magnet" hospital that provides a high level of health care service similar to Strong Memorial Hospital. GCC Nursing instructor Deborah Carrasquillo, RN, MS, also took part in the exchange program.

Both graduates landed positions at Rochester-based hospitals upon their graduation. Wedge took a nursing position at Rochester General on the "4800 floor" and Fial will be working at Strong Memorial Hospital in an orthopedic unit.

"I was pleasantly surprised that there really was no difference in bedside manner," Wedge said. "And I really enjoyed working in 'pods' with other nurses. The 'pods' were made up of three nurses who communicated during the shift as they took care of three to eight patients."

Carrasquillo acted as the U.S. nurse educator and program liaison. This was her first time traveling to a foreign country beyond Canada and she said she was "very empowered" by the entire experience.

"Overall, I found myself in a leadership and mentoring role," Carrasquillo said. "I not only could lead and mentor Natalie and Crystal but I also worked with Southbank staff to show them how we structured our programming back in the U.S."

Wedge and Fial worked at the hospital Monday through Thursday and also completed course work equivalent to two independent study courses. Wedge worked on a medical/surgical floor with dementia and end-of-life rooms, while Fial worked in a unit that was dedicated to patients with needing eye care.

In their scarce spare time, they experienced the city of Brisbane and the surrounding areas throughout the state of Queensland. They enjoyed trips to the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's zoo), Tambourine Mountain, the beaches of the Gold Coast and participated in Anzac Day activities on April 25, the equivalent to the United States' Memorial Day.

"It was just an amazing experience," Wedge said. "We enjoyed the people and the Notcountry and the Australian people were very welcoming."

Not only the exchange participants learn about Aussies and vice-versa, they said it made them stronger and more independent. Plus, they learned something about their chosen profession.

"Nursing is not the same everywhere you go," Wedge said. "It was so beneficial to see the differences. When I left home I was a student, but when I returned home I truly felt like a nurse."

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