Nursing partnership with Ghana set to strengthen nursing fields here and abroad


by Lindsey Park


Ten students in JMU’s School of Nursing visited Ghana over winter session for a 10-day study abroad that will impact their futures as nurses and global citizens, as well as impact the long-standing relationship between JMU and universities in Ghana. The students were led by graduate professor Andrea Knopp and undergraduate professor Betsy Herron.

The graduate student who attended the trip precepted with doctors and physician assistants at a hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. Undergraduate students were paired with nursing students enrolled at Garden City University College as part of a cultural exchange. Together, the American and Ghanaian students attended clinical observations at the hospital.

The students rotated through different wards including the emergency room, pediatrics, and maternity. Students also spent a day touring GCUC’s nursing school. Herron noted that the facilities at GCUC in which students receive training were very similar to the Skills and Sim labs at JMU’s College of Health and Behavioral Studies.

“Being able to know how different cultures do their health care can benefit my own practice in the States,” said Payton Zampiello, a Nursing major who attended the trip. “There are so many pros and cons to each country’s healthcare; being able to experience a system in another country is such an important experience.”

Along with clinical work and observations, the cultural immersion experiences were deeply impactful to students and allowed them to learn more about the social, political, and environmental influences on health and well-being.

“It wasn’t just about health care, it was immersion in the culture of the Ghanaian people,” said Herron. Students observed some of the social determinants of health in the culture in Ghana through working in clinical settings and visiting important cultural locations. The group went hiking through the Canopy Walk in Kakum National Park and visited the Cape Coast Castle, which was used as a holding place for enslaved people before they were loaded on ships to be sold in the Americas in the 18th century.

“The students realized how much history, politics, culture and family affect health,” Knopp said.

“It was eye-opening to see how many Ghanaians live their everyday life,” Zampiello said. “The Ghanaians that we came into contact with were the most genuine, kind, and authentic people I have ever met.”

Though Knopp and Herron have visited other countries in Africa as leaders of study abroad trips in previous years, this was the first of what they hope will be many visits to Ghana. The School of Nursing’s relationship with the country began through a connection with David Owusu-Ansah, professor of history and executive eirector of Access and Educational Outreach. Owusu-Ansah has visited the country with students of various majors since 1997 as part of JMU Summer Study Abroad in Ghana and Internship.

When faculty at GCUC reached out to Owusu-Ansah looking for assistance in establishing graduate-level curriculum for their nursing students, he spoke with Knopp to see if she was interested in forming a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership between JMU and GCUC.

“Dr. Knopp joined me last July in conversations with GCUC administration following their request for partnership. I am very pleased to see Dr. Knopp’s high degree of leadership and energy for making everything possible,” Owusu-Ansah said.

“We’d like to establish a true exchange of ideas, research and student experiences,” Knopp said. The first step of this partnership was the study abroad trip over winter session, but some of the goals Knopp mentioned included collaborating with GCUC to develop geriatric healthcare services that are best suited to the culture and environment of Ghana.

Herron is hopeful the relationship will continue to grow. “More than likely, we’ll take another group next winter term. We hope to continue this and bring in other faculty,” she said.

“I think that the ability that JMU offers to students to take study abroad is critical to the values of JMU,” Knopp said. “It fulfills the mission of the university to ‘Be the Change.’”

“The world and different cultures have so many ideas, traditions, and human relationships that can teach you so much more than a textbook could ever teach you,” Zampiello said.

Zampiello encouraged other students to consider signing up for this study abroad opportunity. “I would take the leap of faith out of your bubble to explore and experience a culture different from your own. I encourage everyone to challenge their beliefs and get out and explore the world.”


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Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2024

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