Augustana and Nord Universities Engage in Virtual Nursing Forum

Nord University of Norway and Augustana University have a long-standing relationship dating back 20 years. Nursing exchange students have many opportunities to experience what life is like in each other’s countries, broadening their cultural perspectives while learning about healthcare programs and education methodologies from a new point of view. 

This year, the universities had to put the exchange program on hold due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. Like so many others, they put their heads together and turned to digital means to connect, still giving students a taste of what life’s like across the pond. 

On Wednesday, March 17, Drs. Karla Abbott, associate professor of nursing, and Ranae Aukerman, assistant professor of nursing at Augustana, will be joining Anita Tymi and Håkon Johansen, assistant professors of nursing and health sciences at Nord University. Together, they will engage in their first joint virtual course entitled, “International Classroom/The Role of the Nurse in Norway and USA” with approximately 180 students in attendance. 

Faculty from Nord and Augustana will speak for 30 minutes, and then break out into discussion groups to compare the roles of nurses in each country and their healthcare systems. Then the groups will come back together to share their findings. To say nurses have been essential workers during the pandemic is an understatement, and this platform allows the groups the opportunity to discuss various components of the pandemic, including the changes nursing has brought to the profession globally. 

“Despite the differences in healthcare systems, nurses have much in common no matter where they practice. Health promotion, providing holistic care and collaboration are key values in both countries,” Abbott explained. “U.S. registered nurses conduct physical assessments on patients while most nurses in Norway engage in additional training beyond undergraduate education in order to conduct physical assessments.”

These similarities and differences are just one small sampling of the topics that the forum will cover.

“This opportunity is too good to let slip by,” Aukerman stated. “Seeing how our common profession educates students is beneficial in many ways, including building relationships that foster inquiry. It supports the idea that ‘we all do better when we all do better.’”

The faculty also share a major common experience. Before COVID-19 impacted the globe, Aukerman participated in a health assessment course at Nord University in Norway last year as part of the Erasmus+ grant and Johansen spent a semester at Augustana as a student in the exchange program in 2008. 

Johansen said, “I still think about my stay with good memories! Being in relationship with other cultures and approaches will increase awareness for both students and teachers. It’s fun to increase the breadth of different perspectives.”

When asked about the impact of COVID-19 in Norway, Johansen responded, “Right now, Norway is in its third wave. Campus is under lockdown, and all students must work from home. Shops are closed, schools have reduced hours. Authorities recommend everyone social distance and use face masks.”

However, when thinking about the impact of healthcare in the last year, Johansen said, “COVID-19 has taught me that nurses are quick to make changes and shift focus when needed. Even in a demanding time for society, nurses stand out.”

Dr. Lynn White, Augustana associate professor of nursing and department chair, spoke to the importance of engaging with another culture. 

“Cultural immersion is a great way to broaden perspectives and create connections. I hope this effort will lead to more opportunities to connect our students and faculty in the future, both virtually and with in-person exchange experiences," said White.

Even following the pandemic, the faculty from both universities believe such a hybrid model will broaden students’ horizons. 

“I think this will become more common as we emerge from the pandemic. While there’s no replacement for face-to-face interactions, we’ve proven that when done thoughtfully, hybrid education can be successful, and even provide some advantages, such as wider access to intercultural opportunities for more students,” stated Ben Iverson, director of international programs and enrollment at Augustana.

Students at Augustana will attend the session as part of their nursing curriculum. 

“The fact that four professors and 180 students are participating in a digital meeting shows that universities are creative when society shuts down,” said Johansen. “It shows that we dare to think of new solutions and do not let ourselves be stopped, even though we are in demanding times.”

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