Adanna Chukwu in Italy during her pediatric rotation abroad
In 2019, as a junior nursing student at La Salle University, I was given the opportunity to participate in a pediatric rotation abroad. I was excited to use my clinical skills and practice the cultural competency skills I learned during my previous summer as an Independence Blue Cross Foundation (Foundation) nurse intern at Chespenn Health Services. While at Chespenn, I worked with patients from various cultural backgrounds — many of whom were Indian, Bangladeshi, and Hispanic. Working with patients who have a different cultural background from my own taught me how to adapt my care to meet their unique needs.
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity
Throughout my nursing education at La Salle University, I yearned for an opportunity to travel abroad to apply my nursing skills overseas, and in September 2018, I was presented with that opportunity. My junior class was given a chance to participate in a pediatric rotation in Vatican City, Italy, for clinical credits. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and spaces were limited. In order to fairly determine who would be selected, each applicant had to write an essay. I was thrilled to find out that I was one of only twelve selected! I was grateful for this opportunity because not only would I be able to use my clinical skills abroad, but I could also put my study of the Italian language into practice!
Preparing for Cultural Differences
In preparation for my trip, I continuously practiced my Italian vocabulary. I also met with my Italian professor to discuss Italian cultural norms and expectations, and to review my work in class. During my ten-week Foundation nursing internship, I learned that in order to understand your patients, you must first understand their culture. In order to understand their culture, you must first learn their culture. Symptoms manifest differently based on a patient’s cultural upbringing.
Pairing My Clinical Skills and My Cultural Competency Skills Abroad
I spent one week abroad in Italy in March 2019. Throughout my time at Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, I worked side by side with the neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurses. I performed basic care on the stable infants, including washing the babies, changing their diapers, feeding them, rocking them, and swaddling them. I assisted a nurse in placing a gastronomy tube (G-tube), and I listened to the doctors give their reports. My knowledge of basic Italian worked in my favor, as the nurses felt comfortable asking me to do tasks because there wasn’t a language barrier. While in the hospital setting, I used my Italian vocabulary as frequently as possible so that I could adapt to the culture. Due to my continued usage of Italian throughout my trip, I received an award from my clinical instructors.
The Power of Cultural Competency
Throughout my internship and my clinical rotation abroad, I have learned, and seen firsthand, the importance of cultural competency. Being culturally competent allows you to understand your patients and connect with your fellow colleagues who may have a different background than you. As a nurse, the more I can learn about my patients and my colleagues, the better I can serve.