Experiencing other cultures teaches students to be culturally mindful, says nursing student
- NC Raine | February 22, 2018
The desire to learn from new cultures in order to better serve her community has led one nursing student from Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan to the Eastern African country of Uganda.
Shania Petit, 22, a fourth-year nursing student at Northlands College in La Ronge, is one of ten recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Program. The scholarship is aimed to create a community of global leaders across Canada through cross-cultural exchanges. This spring, she will spend three months in Uganda, a country noted for both its beautiful landscapes, and its extreme poverty.
For Petit, this is an opportunity for growth as a future healthcare professional.
“In nursing, I believe it's so important to be culturally aware and culturally competent,” says Petit. “To be aware of your own culture so you're able to respect and understand others' around you.”
Growing up in northern Saskatchewan, Petit says the lack of healthcare services in the north was one of the catalysts to seeking a career in nursing. She believes Indigenous people need care from their own.
“There's a lack of those kinds of services, and I wanted to help with that,” Petit says.
Nursing opened her eyes to how important it is to be culturally mindful. When she learned about the possibility of continuing her studies in Africa, she knew it would be valuable opportunity.
“I love traveling and I love nursing, so being able to work and do what you love is the ultimate goal. That the direction I want to take my career.”
The trip to Uganda will be Petit's second time traveling abroad for nursing. Last July, she spent two weeks in Norway as part of the Innovative Learning Institute for Circumpolar Health program, learning and connecting with Norway's indigenous Sami people.
“I gained perspectives on how their healthcare compares with ours, and found a lot of similarities with both of our Indigenous people,” said Petit. “When I'm nursing in everyday life, I'm not judging or projecting culture onto anyone. The more I understand my own culture, the more it helps me to understand others through their culture.”
In Uganda, Petit and her colleagues will first be sent to community placement sites for the first month. They will then work part-time in the community health centre while they collaborate on a community health project with members of the community.
Uganda, a country with over 40 million people, is one of the world’s poorest. With daily challenges in water supply, sanitation, and diseases like HIV, Petit says she expects nursing in Uganda to much different than what she's used to in Canada.
“Connecting with global colleagues and seeing how they nurse over there, I think I'm going to come home with a very strong appreciation of where I live,” she says.
“I want to eventually settle down in the north. I think with trips like this, I'm going to gain more diverse experience so I can bring it home and apply it here. I want to be a better nurse because of this.”