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York College of PA establishes Nursing student exchange program with Polish university

February 07, 2023
Students in Poland

York College of Pennsylvania Nursing students in Dr. Klaudia Cwiekala-Lewis’ Community Health course have an advantage over students studying the same course material at other schools or universities. In addition to learning about the U.S. healthcare system, some are experiencing firsthand how the healthcare system in Poland works, thanks to their professor’s connections.

A group of four students, Cwiekala-Lewis, and Holly Sypniewski, Director of Faculty Development and Global Initiatives, traveled in January 2023 to Poland to visit the State University of Applied Sciences (SUAS) in Włocławek, an institution with which York had signed a formal student exchange agreement in 2021. Although this was the first exploratory trip due to COVID, students from both institutions had learned from each other previously.

“In the spring of 2022, we created an online global experience that allowed our students to ‘meet’ with the Polish students to create a case study,” said Cwiekala-Lewis, who was born in Poland. “Each group then presented the case study to the other group. The ultimate goal of sharing case studies is to learn how patient care is approached in different countries, as well as to learn about global diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, malaria, Ebola, and others from nurses that are fighting them on the front lines.”

Meeting face-to-face for the first time, Cwiekala-Lewis and leadership from SUAS discussed how students can benefit from a relationship between the two institutions. Much of the time, however, was spent learning about the Polish healthcare system and the academic programs at SUAS.

“The school is beautiful,” she said. “They have robust technology when it comes to programs and their Nursing department. For instance, it took us four hours to visit their simulation building, and they still didn’t show us everything that they had.

“Our students participated in simulations with the Polish students and particularly enjoyed this. They worked on lower-fidelity simulation equipment – almost like a computer game – to see who gets more points for patient case studies. This was then followed by bedside simulation.”

Junior Nursing major and Eisenhart Community Scholar Sarah Martin was impressed by their nursing facility equipment. “They had nursing mannequins that were very advanced like a model that you would practice CPR compressions on,” she said. “It would then show the oxygen traveling to the baby or adult's brain. They had another model that showed if you are doing your compressions with the correct force and rate. It gave you feedback and made me better understand the target rate.”

Sarah also enjoyed a number of other experiences during the trip, and remarked on how hospitable those at the Polish university were. “I also want to mention their hospitality toward us throughout the trip was amazing,” she said. “They arranged for so many valuable experiences that I am so grateful to have seen in Poland. There were many takeaways that we can act on to make our program better, so I am excited about what will come from this collaboration with the Polish university.”

The students were able to learn more about the healthcare system in Poland, saw different levels of care (acute to hospital/wellness center), and went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German Nazi concentration camps, according to Cwiekala-Lewis.

Visitors from SAUS will come to York in April or May, and then “we are looking at scheduling a trip for York students in May, after finals, so that it does not interfere with curricular requirements,” she said. “The trip would count as clinical days for students in the Community Health course, which is also helpful with regard to scheduling.”

The trip to Poland would be available to students in the College’s RN to BSN online program, where Cwiekala-Lewis teaches the same offering, and perhaps even graduate nursing students. In addition, Sypniewski participated in the trip to explore the potential for programs other than Nursing to collaborate with SAUS.

International programs are work-intensive, said Cwiekala-Lewis. “It’s like when you are looking for a hotel, and you have the option to choose between one with a pool or one without. Many people may not use study abroad, but knowing that the option is available makes York College more marketable.”