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Open World spotlights nursing education in Bemidji

Anna Baklykova from Balakovo, Russia, listens to the computer-simulated heart beat of a mannequin Oct. 4 at Bemidji State University's nursing laboratory. Tatyana Sharabanova, right, of Balakovo, and Lyudmila Surkova from Tomsk, Siberia, assist. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

As their plane descended over snow-covered fields surrounding the Bemidji airport on Friday, Oct. 30, Lyudmila Surkova turned to her colleagues and said, "It looks like we are returning back home."

Surkova, a 34-year-old from Siberian State Medical University in Tomsk, Siberia, was one of six medical physicians and administrators from Russia who visited Bemidji from Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 to study nursing education in the United States.

The delegates traveled as exchange professionals through an organization called Open World, which is administered by World Services of La Crosse, Wis.

Since the organization was founded by Congress in 1999, Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College have worked with Open World to provide exchange trips for students and professionals.

Open World currently operates exchanges for participants from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

Alice Thompson, a retired NTC nursing educator, served as the local community program coordinator who helped facilitate the Siberian medical professionals' visit to Bemidji last week. In September, Tompson traveled to Tomsk through Open World, along with two nursing faculty from NTC.

Throughout their stay in Bemidji, the Open World delegates toured the Concordia Language Villages, Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Bemidji Woolen Mills. They also participated in Halloween festivities and other local cultural ceremonies.

Bemidji is much smaller in size than Tomsk, Siberia, a city of 500,000 people, and Balakovo, Russia, city of 220,000 people.

"The nature is so beautiful," said Olga Zubkova, the group's facilitator. "The friendliness and hospitality of Bemidji is absolutely enchanting."

The delegates toured the BSU nursing programs and were given demonstrations of new technology in the labs. They also witnessed clinical screenings at St. Philip's school, wound care at North Country Regional Hospital, and were given tours of NTC's nursing facilities. They also gave a presentation on health care delivery in Russia.

"I believe that to us one of the most surprising things was the structure of the place of the nurses and the structure of the health care system," said Natalya Vladimirovna, the vice chancellor for strategic planning at Siberian State Medical University in Tomsk.

"We realize the role of the nurse is very significant within the whole health care structure in the United States. In Russia, a physician is the dominating figure in health care," she said.

One of the delegates commented that the responsibilities of the physicians and nurses are very different.

"In America, nurses pretty often do the work that in Russia would be done by a physician," said Tatyana Sharabanova, deputy chair of the Health Committee in Balakovskiy Provincial District Administration in Balakovo.

The delegates also commented about the differences in the average number of hours a patient spends in the hospital. In Russia, the delegates said the average stay for an in-patient is 9-10 days. In America it is between 2-3 days, said Thompson.

"The way I understand it is that in the United States there is more emphasis on prevention services, pre-hospital services and rehabilitation. The physician already has a good picture of condition of patient when patient is in hospital," said Sharabanova.

When asked about differences in nursing education, one delegate commented about the academic schedule of nursing students.

"In my opinion, the United States is much simpler from an organizational point of view," said Aleksandr Kornetov, department chair of Siberian State Medical School. "The academic schedule shown to me fits on one sheet of paper. With us, it would be several dozen papers."

The topic of the H1N1 flu virus was also discussed throughout their stay in Bemidji.

"I believe that right now Russia's response to the flu virus is the same as what the World Health Organization recommends," said Sharabanova. "We also believe it starts with the individual with hand-washing."

Several delegates commented on what they will take home from their experience in Bemidji.

"The entire health care system is entirely different - not better or worse, just different," said Sharabanova. "Here in Bemidji we see a vision about a new approach in terms of preparing nurses for higher education."