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Students Expand Cultural Awareness in the Czech Republic

This past summer, 14 of BYU’s nursing students had the opportunity to experience a once-in-a-lifetime three-and-a-half week clinical practicum in the Czech Republic. They spent time in the cities of Prague, Pilsen, and Susice doing clinical and community service.

Throughout the different locations, students were exposed to what healthcare looks like in all communities, whether in big cities or small towns. Assistant Teaching Professor Dr. Petr Ruda is a native of the Czech Republic and was responsible for this public and global health nursing course site. Dr. Ruda said, “It’s the same socialized medicine system, but there are different challenges that staff and hospitals in general have. For example, small town hospitals struggle to survive, while bigger hospitals have too many patients.” Traveling to multiple areas of the country allowed the students to learn how to adapt to different environments and patient circumstances.

Nursing students in front of an ambulance in Pilsen

In each area, a typical day on the trip began by waking up early at 5:30 am. The students would head to clinicals for most of the morning, shadowing nurses or teaching children in the local schools. While working with patients, the nursing students faced language barriers and other challenges. Bree Kofford, one of the students in the group, described the unique experience of providing care in a new country; she said, “Even though I had no idea what they were saying or what was going on, I could still do what they needed to care for them.” The BYU students also met with nursing students in the Czech Republic. Bree said, “I was able to see that even though we have different lives, we are all similar across the world. We're all learning the same things as nursing students, and our patients are all the same. They're just people who need help.”

Nursing students in front of a military hospital in Prague

After working in a hospital or community, the students would spend their afternoons exploring the country and what it had to offer. Dr. Ruda said, “I can imagine being in the Czech Republic easily for the whole semester, and we would still be busy and have many opportunities.” On this past trip, the students visited traditional tourist highlights such as Prague Castle and Charles Bridge and local sights, including many synagogues and cathedrals. In addition, they got to explore the cities during their time off and, of course, eat lots of delicious gelatos.

The extra activities within the practicum were fun and learning experiences. One particular day, the students toured the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Makenna Neubert described what it was like saying, “It was one of the most impactful cultural experiences I’ve had. You don’t realize the extent of everything that went on until you are there walking where they walked.” Dr. Ruda described it further, saying, “I’ve never been in a worse place in my life. I believe the students feel it, and as bad as it is, it builds something positive in them to respect humanity and life.” He continued, “We shouldn’t look at our differences but instead look at what we have in common, and that is the fruit of this experience. It's good and something we should do more of.”

The Czech Republic clinical practicum provided unique experiences for the BYU nursing students. It taught them lessons and skills they will continue to use throughout their nursing careers and lives. Those who went on this trip walked away from the experience having truly learned the Healer’s art. Makenna put it best saying, “Regardless of where people are from, their background, language they speak, or illness they have, they deserve to be cared for.”