Experiencing the Czech Republic

By Mindy Longhurst

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The 2018 Czech Republic public and global health nursing course practicum class.

College of Nursing students at Brigham Young University are able to learn more about the Czech Republic’s healthcare system during the Czech Republic public and global health nursing course practicum. For three and a half weeks the nursing students are able to learn and experience the Czech Republic. Formerly a part of communist Czechoslovakia (a satellite state of the Soviet Union), the Czech Republic and its healthcare system have undergone dramatic changes since the country became independent in 1993. The healthcare system is socialized, so it is required for all citizens of the Czech Republic to have health insurance.

Assistant teaching professor, Petr Ruda, is a native of the Czech Republic. He loves the opportunity to be able to teach the nursing students about the culture and let them experience elements of his home country. He explains, “The overall experience was great! All of the students were excited to try new things and be exposed to new environments and cultures. They were able to learn about traditions and learn about the memorials that we visited.”

One of the biggest challenges for the students is the language barrier. Ruda expounds, “The language is difficult, it is a Slavic language. In the bigger cities most people speak English, then we go to the medium sized city where they speak less English, we end at a small village where there is not a lot of people who speak English fluently.” This can sometimes make it difficult for the students to fully understand what is happening. But, this amazing opportunity allows the nursing students to be able to depend on their smiles and gestures to explain what they are doing and how they are feeling. Relying on their nonverbal skills teaches the nursing students the importance of body language, a vital way to express communication.

ptr 2.0Assistant teaching professor, Petr Ruda, in the Czech Republic.

While in the Czech Republic the students work closely with the local nurses and are able to learn more about the complementary and alternative medicine treatments that are used regularly in the Czech Republic. Ruda says, “As part of the health insurance, you can qualify to receive a coupon or receive paperwork for a special treatment. The treatment is done in localized, special clinics. What that means, if you have really bad asthma, you may be advised by your primary care provider to spend some time in a certain area that is specialized for asthma patients.”

For the first time this past spring, the 10 students on the Czech Republic public and global health nursing course practicum were able to attend the Auschwitz concentration camp from WWII. This experience was able to give the students a greater perspective and taught them more about the holocaust. Ruda explains, “We go to help our students understand what has happened and how to stop it from happening again. Auschwitz was the darkest place I have ever seen and experienced. Auschwitz and the holocaust needs to be told and explained to the nursing students. It needs to be taught and shared so this never happens again. The concentration camps still effect those who are in the Czech Republic.”

Another experience that these students are able to receive is the ability to teach the nurses and local nursing students about the healthcare in the United States. Compared to the United States, the nurses in the Czech Republic are understaffed. One student says, “The biggest difference we saw was a lack of nurses. And the nurses who were there had huge workloads and appeared to be underpaid.” In the United States, the nurses have more flexibility in patient care, while in the Czech Republic nurses are more restricted on patient care.

Getting to know a different culture helped the students not only to gain perspective on different countries’ healthcare systems but also to appreciate its citizens, customs and historical events. The students and faculty members who are able to attend the Czech Republic public and global health nursing course practicum, leave the country feeling like they better understand a different culture and are grateful for the many different experiences they had.

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