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EFSC Professor Introduces Study Abroad Program in Zambia

October 4, 2016

View a photo gallery from the trip.

A recent three-week study abroad program in Africa, designed to provide first-year EFSC nursing students with an opportunity to develop a better understanding of transcultural healthcare, highlights the unique educational opportunities made possible by the growth of online education.

EFSC Nursing Students
L to R: Levi, Emily Abraham, Summer Lostetter, Luke. Photo credit: Summer Lostetter

The growing appeal of online courses stems from the convenience of being able to work remotely – sometimes very remotely.

Dr. Elinda Steury, a full-time EFSC Associate Professor with 25 years of nursing experience, currently resides in Zambia, Africa, where she teaches eLearning courses in pharmacology and health sciences that are popular with Eastern Florida students.

Sensing a unique opportunity to expand the College’s current study abroad offerings, Dr. Steury has spent the past five years developing a hybrid course centered around the concept of transcultural nursing, which included three weeks of preparatory work at EFSC in the U.S., followed by three weeks of practical, on-site experience in Zambia.  

Six students were selected from among 24 applicants to participate in the course’s summer 2016 pilot program. They raised money for the trip by holding car washes and earning scholarships from Girlfriend’s Guild, a Melbourne-based non-profit organization that provides resources to Brevard County women.

Nursing Student Taylor
Nursing student Taylor Collins comforts a car accident victim  waiting for his parents to arrive. Photo credit: Taylor Collins

Designed as a networking experience, the trip offered students the opportunity to observe Zambian healthcare professionals in several different settings including a trauma center, a hospital and within local communities. They watched births, dealt with domestic violence cases and ultimately gained a more accurate understanding of their Zambian counterparts.   

“Prior to my experience there, I was under the impression that Zambian doctors were lacking the skill and intelligence of American medical professionals,” said nursing student Summer Lostetter. “Then I watched a doctor explain sickle cell anemia, put a plate in a broken clavicle and perform a C-section all in the same day, and I realized firsthand that they are extremely educated, despite having more limited resources.”

Students additionally got to experience Zambia from a tourist’s perspective. The program included excursions to Victoria Falls and a local game park, where they interacted with large African wildlife.

“The group really approached everything with open minds and took advantage of every opportunity they had,” said Dr. Steury, who was able to teach the first part of the course face-to-face this year during a visit back to Florida before then teaching the on-site portion in Zambia. In future years, the plan is a hybrid course with three weeks through an online classroom and three weeks in Africa.

Nursing Students Outside Housing
L to R: Emily Abraham, Mikayla Worthen, Summer Lostetter, Taylor Collins, Jordain Farrell and Connie Hall. Photo credit: Taylor Collins

"So much of nursing will be community based in the future," said EFSC Nursing Dept. Chair Connie Bobik, who was able to incorporate part of the clinical requirements for a childbearing course into the trip for the students as well. "They had to use their critical thinking skills to improvise with what they had. We depend so much on technology sometimes we can forget that when you don't have high tech available you have to rely on the higher touch side of nursing. The students came back changed by this experience."

Open minds were necessary to  handle the culture shock inherent in studying abroad. Although students were housed in the westernized Kafakumba Training Center, a supervised site containing both electricity and indoor plumbing, they still faced challenges such as the language barrier.  

“English is the working language in Zambia, but not everyone speaks it. There was a lot of laughing and a lot of head shaking on both sides,” said Dr. Steury. “I certainly think it broadened their world perspective, and that was the objective.”

In the wake of positive feedback from the pilot trip, Dr. Steury plans to sponsor the program again next summer, possibly growing it to include more students from across different course levels. For more information, contact