By Kelly Brooks-Staub
A Virtual Bridge Between Baltimore and Slovenia
Faculty member Patricia Abbott, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, is collaborating with the University of Maribor to bring the first graduate distance education courses in nursing to the country of Slovenia through a new program, “Distance Learning for Nurse Education.” Abbott and co-investigator Peter Kokol, associate dean for research at the University of Maribor, are exploring opportunities for faculty and student exchange, finding ways to reach across the ocean to benefit nurses on both sides.
Says Abbott, “This approach enables us to disregard geography, expand our scholarship, and share our knowledge. The faculty and the students have extraordinary opportunities for cultural exchange, which enhances our understanding. ”
The first initiative? “The Virtual Teaching Assistant,” a fully web-based approach to preparing TAs that will teach basic computer competencies essential to health care education. It is being developed by Helena Blazun, a pre-doctoral fellow at the Hopkins School of Nursing, who is also a master’s student at the Faculty of Economics and Business and assistant in the College of Nursing Studies at the University of Maribor. Blazun, whose efforts are funded through the Technology Fellowship Program offered by Hopkins’ Center for Educational Resources at Homewood, is working closely with Abbott and faculty member Krysia Hudson, MS, RN. Students in both Baltimore and Maribor will use the Virtual TA web-portal to gain knowledge and skills in such areas as e-mail, MicroMedix, use of knowledge bases such as PubMed, general computing skills, HIPAA compliance training, and automated careplanning.
Says Blazun, “The Virtual TA will have a user-friendly interface, providing optimal training and interaction without losing the personal touch. This project is just a start of great collaboration between Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and University of Maribor, University College of Nursing Studies.”
Clinical Coursework in St. Croix
Eight community health nursing students left Baltimore’s 30-degree February weather to gain first-hand clinical experience in the sunny U.S. Virgin Islands. During their week-long visit, students worked in several clinical sites, met with nursing students from the University of the Virgin Islands, and learned about the unique culture of St. Croix, where over one third of the population lives in poverty.
Students Janet Pniewski, Keira Wickliffe, Amy Renner, Sarah Hoffman, Kristen Johnson, Rosalie Hunt, Elizabeth Ridpath, and Angela Hill visited and worked in a variety of clinical sites on St. Croix. “The site visits allowed the students to assess the health needs of the community,” says instructor Beth Sloand, MSN, RN, CPNP, who organized the trip. “The activities were designed to prepare our students to look at the big picture, examine the needs of the community from a health perspective, and determine what sorts of services they need.”
The group addressed a wide variety of pervasive health problems including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. “Approximately 17 percent of the islanders have diabetes, 25 percent have high blood pressure, and 59 percent are overweight or obese,” says Sloand. “Malnutrition and high levels of stress are also prevalent, due in part to the island’s high poverty rate.”
Says student Elizabeth Ridpath, “Overall, it was a wonderful experience. We established connections, visited areas where real health needs must be addressed, and provided evaluations that will help future nursing students who want to complete their coursework on St. Croix.”