In the Czech educational system, a public school student can choose to concentrate studies along a technical or professional path beginning at age 14, or what we in the United States consider high school. For instance, a student accepted to a health-career school would have a curriculum that follows a scientific and biological course, with clinical experiences in health care. After four years, the student can decide to pursue nursing, medical or allied health programs at the university level, go a completely different direction with university studies, or simply enter the workforce.
This past week, I was invited to speak at a health-career school in a neighboring community on the subject of health care in the United States. My audience was comprised of third- and fourth-year students, ages 17 to 18. The students submitted questions in advance, which gave me an idea of the type of information they were interested in.
They wanted to know a bit about me; where I went to school, where I had worked and in what section of the hospital. In fact, the assumption was that all my experience was in a hospital setting. In the Czech Republic, there are few nursing jobs outside hospitals, so, when I mentioned the many different roles nurses fill in the U.S. system, the students were quite surprised. I also identified and explained available levels of nursing education, including advanced practice possibilities, and this came as a downright shock to the students. They had never heard of an expanded nursing role, even though it exists in Europe with practitioners in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
I had been warned that Czech students are not interactive, and I should not expect them to engage in dialog. However, the discussion about opportunities in nursing and advanced practice spurred many questions and interaction that surprised the class teacher. She admitted, once the discussion had ended, that she was amazed at the amount of interest the students had expressed and how engaged they were with questions. I hope I planted a seed of curiosity in my audience that may lead them to explore the many ways nurses can contribute to the health of their nation. The possibilities are exciting.
For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.