IU South Bend students get international view of their future profession
A dozen radiography students from Indiana University South Bend have just returned from a trip to the birthplace of their profession. They visited Germany as part of a new study abroad program called “Global Experiences in Radiologic Technology.”
Led by Clinical Associate Professors Amy Gretencord and Maryann Oake, the students visited Berlin, the capital of Germany with some of the best hospitals in the country; Remscheid, the home of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen who was a pioneer in the development of X-rays; and Koblenz where they experienced German culture.
The program offered opportunities for students to compare the health care systems in Germany and the U.S. and connect with German students in their field, creating opportunities for international networking and cultural learning.
“They were incredibly welcoming. I feel like I learned a lot about being social and communicating with others,” said senior radiography student Ian Burke. “Being on the other side of the language barrier makes me think about ways to be more creative with my non-English speaking patients.”
That was just one of the benefits highlighted by organizers, who hope seeing the profession from a different perspective entices students to learn and change.
“I hope they have a new appreciation for how they’re interacting with patients. Sometimes you can get really busy, but I think they will have a different perspective in dealing with non-English speaking patients so they can get the same care as everyone else,” Gretencord said.
Senior radiography student Bradley Bunton said he returned with new enthusiasm for the field.
“It changes your outlook on how you see your profession and makes you want to learn more about what you’re doing,” he said.
During the trip, the group visited the IU Gateway in Berlin, the Medical Technologist for Radiology (MTR) Program at the BBG Berlin Education Campus for Health Professions, the Medical History Museum of the Charite Hospital, and the Department of Radiology and Radiation Therapy in Vivantes Neukölln.
Those experiences were eye opening for the South Bend students.
“At the hospital we got to interact with the professionals. They seemed so straight forward with their patients,” said senior radiography student Samantha Jackson, who noticed some differences in the hospital setting. “I can appreciate the privacy we have in our hospitals. There were a lot of people in the waiting areas there that were really close together.”
Jackson said it was eye opening to see another country’s system. Bunton agreed.
“We all noticed that the health care systems are very different. The German students were shocked by the amount of money we spend on health care,” he said. “I was surprised to learn they focus on CT and MRI quite a bit when imaging patients.”
Senior radiography student Realyn Evans saw other differences as well.
“In America, when we do X-rays, we have a series to do. In Germany, if they see something on the first X-ray, they will sometimes stop and send their patients for another test,” she said.
She also noticed techniques that will be useful when she begins her career here.
“We saw them position patients a little differently to try and lower the rest of the body’s exposure to radiation. I will keep that in mind when I’m working in the field,” Evans said.
With 90 percent of IU South Bend’s radiography students remaining in our region after graduation, organizers say the international experience will have an impact in local communities.
“We could see the students changing during the span of the trip. They seemed to grow professionally in their confidence and their peer-to-peer relationships,” Oake said. “The field is so important for health care. I want them to be instilled with confidence about what they can do. Their stories and experiences will trickle down into the community when they begin their professional careers.”
It wasn’t only the South Bend students who gained new insights from the trip.
“It was an amazing experience for our German students and me as well. It is so important to build international bridges in our profession. Thank you IUSB,” said Michael Rohloff, director of the MTR Program at BBG.
This was the initial trip by the radiography department which they plan to continue each year.
IU South Bend is also in the process of constructing a new state-of-the-art Simulation Center which will transform Parkside Hall into high-tech, flexible spaces for the radiography and nursing programs. The space will provide a new energized lab for students to practice taking real X-rays and will increase the space available for simulation and skills training.
The university is currently raising funds for the technology and equipment that will be housed in the center. Information about the center and fundraising can be found at go.iu.edu/sim-center
The space will be open for students in the fall of 2024.
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