Volunteer Experience

Long-time Volunteer Examines the Progress in Bangladesh

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In our last post, Sara Jackson, a long-time volunteer with the BHP, described her first visit to Bangladesh.  It serves as juxtaposition to her most recent visit, in 2017.  She recounts her most recent trip:

“I recently returned to Vancouver after three months in Bangladesh.  The IUBAT nursing program has their own Bangladeshi faculty these days; therefore, instead of teaching, I spent my time supporting the instructors by writing exam questions, filling in some knowledge gaps and accompanying them to hospital clinical practice sites with the students.  The faculty are all young, bright, passionate, and well-versed professionals.  I found the students to be open and willing to learn and succeed in this not so easy country.  I was able to offer some language instruction and was pleased to edit research papers and assist with academic writing.  I basically jumped in to help as needed.

Apart from work at IUBAT, I prepared a two-day workshop on hygiene and infection control for the Sajida Organization’s (an NGO-health organization) new homecare aid hires.  This was a very positive experience.  The Organization invited me to attend a three-day workshop on High Risk Labour and Delivery, facilitated by Team Broken Earth from Newfoundland.  The target audience was a large group of OBGYNs that the Sajida Organization employs at their progressive hospitals.

Another one of the highlights was a social event on a Saturday. We spent the day on a hired boat with large speakers and a DJ. One of the students prepared chicken biryani and snacks for the cruise. Bangladesh has a six-day work and study week, so this was a great opportunity to have some much needed leisure time. I was enjoying myself so much, I decided to extend my time in Bangladesh by an extra month. The work was so interesting and varied. Bangladeshis are warm, welcoming, kind, and not to mention, have a great sense of humour!

IUBAT is now fully staffed with Bangladeshi nursing faculty.  I was fortunate to connect with IUBAT Nursing graduates employed in research, with international NGOs, as nurse managers, coordinators and in other high functioning and demanding positions in healthcare.  These students have a bright future to pursue.  In and around Dhaka, growth and change is highly visible.  Many of the construction and mega projects are mind- boggling to see and strangely futuristic.

One week before returning to Vancouver, two volunteers from Alberta, Nancy and Eve, arrived.  This was Nancy’s second visit.  The time we spend as volunteers in Bangladesh is so appreciated.  Volunteers leave this country with more knowledge, indelible memories, but mostly an open heart.”

Sara, we appreciate your insight, expertise and your immense contributions to the success of the Bangladesh Health Project, both in North America and in Bangladesh.  This longitudinal description is helpful for our readers who are interested in the progress of the Program and the country, or are curious as to how things are currently, as compared to when they themselves last visited IUBAT!  We look forward to more of these types of stories from people who have been with the Program over the years as it grew.

Long-Time Volunteer Describes her First Visit to Dhaka

Sara Jackson, a long-time volunteer with the BHP (also featured here and here), wrote to us and reflected about her recent visit to IUBAT. Sara is a volunteer at home, as our return volunteer recognition liaison since 2013, and abroad, serving as visiting nursing faculty and student support when at IUBAT. She has also lent her expertise to the Sajida Organization (an NGO health-organization in Bangladesh) for the purposes of homecare program development. When she is not overseas, Sara is a Licensed Practical Nurse in Vancouver, and has culled her vast clinical experience from a variety of settings, spending the last 15 years working with HIV/AIDS and co-occurring disorders, including palliative care. She is presently employed as a clinical research associate with the BC Centre on Drug Use, and is also an ESL teacher to internationally educated nurses.

We have asked Sara to detail her first trip to Dhaka so that it truly illustrates the transformation and the extent of the change that the Program has undergone. She writes:

“My first trip to Bangladesh was in 2014.  I volunteered with the Project as visiting faculty and worked alongside a critical care nurse from the US, two Canadian nurse educators, and a retired orthopedic surgeon.  At that time, fourth-year BSN students from Vancouver Community College spent a six-week practicum in Dhaka studying community and global health.  We were all hosted at the IUBAT guesthouse.  In addition, a most wonderful American poet from Louisiana, Dorie LaRue, shared the space while she was volunteering with the English faculty.  Dorie later published a book of poetry about her experience in Bangladesh entitled, ‘Mad Rains’.  It’s a wonderful read.  I was fortunate to have shared many Dhaka adventures with Dorie.

The IUBAT campus is in Uttara, a model town in the suburbs of Dhaka.  The campus was more modern than I imagined.  All classes are taught in English and the senior students had a good command of the language.  I instructed first and second-year students in bedside nursing skills and vital signs in the Nursing Lab and theory in one of the bright classrooms.  The VCC and IUBAT students studied and mentored each other.

The 'Soul Train' during Eid

The ‘Soul Train’ during Eid

Dr. Nazmul Huda from Dhaka provided us with plenty of opportunities to visit various healthcare facilities, including a weekend trip to his family home near Barisal in the south.  The road trip alone was like watching a non-stop National Geographic documentary.  It is difficult to put into words the scenes of humanity witnessed.  Dr. Huda also arranged a paddle wheeler excursion on a restored vessel down the Mehgna River.  We were able to spend some time away from Dhaka, the chaos capital of the world, at the tea plantation area of Sylhet, as well as Rajshahi, the mango capital of Bangladesh.  Rajashi is a lush, green, and agricultural area uring the monsoon season.  It is located on the Padma River and is surprisingly quiet.  There are many ancient Hindu temples and mosques close by.  What a dream to experience such a place.”

Thank you Sara, for painting such a rich picture of your first glimpse of Bangladesh and of the BScN Program at IUBAT. Sara’s account will be continued in the next post, where she recounts her 2017 visit.

Volunteers Recall Memories of Bangladesh

Nancy and Emily at the "Mini" Taj
Emily Hagg, a ICU RN at the Foothills Medical Center in Calgary, and Nancy Campbell, a Registered Nurse with Alberta Health Services, recently returned from Dhaka, where they volunteered with the Bangladesh Health Project. We asked Nancy and Emily to regale us with their favourite stories and most memorable moments from their trip.

Emily: “I was in Bangladesh from Jan. 11th to April 3th, so I was there for almost an entire semester. My official role was as a Post-Graduate Research Fellow, which mostly entailed being available as a mentor to the nursing instructors already in place and helping out with whatever I could in the classes and clinicals.

Nancy: “I arrived in Dhaka March 7th and left April 8th. My arrival was easy for me as Emily was already there! Emtiaz from the IUBAT Nursing College met me at the airport and I felt supported for the entire time. My official position was the same as Emily’s: Visiting Research Fellow, and my role was the same as well, to support the Nursing Faculty in the clinical and classroom settings. I also had the opportunity to work with the Sajeda Foundation on the development of their Home Care Program and their Seniors’ Supportive Housing Facility project.”

Emily: “What I especially loved about my experience was how friendly people were in Bangladesh, from the instructors, the students, to people on the street: just big smiles wherever I went. Initially, I had to adjust to the attention and the people just wanting to know about you and get close to you, which is very different from North American culture! I also will always remember how respectful the nursing students were! They stood when we instructors came into the room, calling us “ma’am”, earnestly listening to every word we ever said, and being protective of us when we were out in public together, etc. They were so polite and pleasant to work with!”

Emily at the Pink Palace in Old Dhaka

Emily at the Pink Palace in Old Dhaka

Nancy: “Yes! The thing I will always remember is walking into a classroom that first afternoon and all of the students standing up when the faculty entered. That just doesn’t happen in Canada. As I got to know them, I was humbled by their commitment to their education: the daily challenges they had just to get to school, on top of having to learn in English – nursing education is tough enough without these challenges. There wasn’t single day that I didn’t have an interaction with one of them that made me smile. They included us in their annual picnic and it was an incredible day, full of surprises and adventures.

IUBAT was similarly great: a sanctuary created by the school with the tea in the cafe, the guards that helped you cross the road in crazy traffic and of course, the long lineups to use the elevators. The faculty of the nursing college were simply amazing. They mentored us on “life” in Dhaka as much as we mentored them on nursing education.

It was interesting to be stared at and be asked to take pictures with total strangers. Add to that the population density that I hadn’t yet ever experienced – I didn’t know what to think at first. While it was unusual to have my activities/freedoms curtailed, I did not ever feel threatened or unsafe. Also, everyone should ride in a rickshaw at least once in their life! One cannot think of Dhaka without thinking of the traffic and the noise; there are absolutely no words that adequately describe the travel by van in that city.”

Emily: “I was definitely surprised by the instant celebrity status we seemed to develop by just entering the country and how hard that was to get used to. I didn’t think it would be quite the extreme that it was. It would have been nice (and easier to move around) if we were more ‘invisible’.” 

Emily and Nancy at the guest house

Emily and Nancy at the guest house

Emily: “If I had any advice for those interested in volunteering, it would be to be prepared to ‘go with the flow’! Things change rapidly and your day seldom works out as you initially planned it. It’s important not to get stressed out about stuff like that. Also, the accommodations are better than the volunteer manual makes them out to be! There’s hot water showers, a washing machine available, etc. It’s also so nice not having to prepare lunch and supper everyday! Finally, Caucasians should be extra prepared to be an object of fascination every where you go. It often takes longer to move around because of this fact.”

Nancy: “Anyone who is open to a new experience should go. I would encourage my nurse colleagues to go and experience a world where you can truly mentor nursing leadership AND grow an appreciation for the respect that nursing receives in Canada. Perhaps a practical piece of advice would be to get your visa before you arrive – I spent 2.5 hours in the VISA on arrival booth and an additional hour when I left because I had overstayed by 2 days. Despite that, it was amazing to be able to have a small impact and change the world of nursing in Bangladesh. I hope to go back very soon.”

A big thanks to Nancy and Emily for sharing their favourite recollections of Bangladesh; we love hearing from our volunteers! If any potential volunteers are interested and would like more information, please go to the Volunteer section on our website.

Updates from BHP’s Advisor of Health Sciences

Alex IUBAT 2017
Alex Berland, Advisor of Health Sciences at IUBAT and founding member of the Bangladesh Health Project, reports on his recent visit to IUBAT.  He writes:

“The university is overall busier than ever with new construction underway to meet the demand for good quality higher education. College of Nursing enrolment remains disappointing, mostly due to proliferation of private colleges with cheaper fees; guardians may not consider quality in making decisions, especially for their daughters. IUBAT is now reducing BSN tuition fees with scholarships for strong students.

On a brighter note, I was happy to observe in both classroom and hospital the quality of current students. Obviously, our faculty are doing a terrific job promoting English use, encouraging critical thinking and pushing students to use problem-solving skills. Dr. Masud, Coordinator of the College of Nursing, is building a strong faculty team of graduates from IUBAT as well as other good colleges. After several meetings with faculty, I feel very positive about their ability.

Our library collection and nursing lab benefitted from re-organization by visiting faculty Anne-Marie Hummelman. Spring semester volunteers, Emily Hagg and Nancy Campbell, shared their positive impressions of faculty that they have been mentoring. Also, I visited an excellent practice site, Universal Medical Hospital, led by a visionary chairwoman who has hired IUBAT graduates as senior managers. Similarly, at Sajida Health Programs, IUBAT graduates hold senior roles managing innovative programs. Several IUBAT graduates recently sent news about their career accomplishments, so I am feeling very positive about the impact of the Bangladesh Health Project through its many supporters and visiting faculty over the past 13 years.”

Project Lauded for Innovative Instruction

Since it’s inception, the Bangladesh Health Project has relied on the generosity of overseas volunteer faculty who have taught students, developed courses and mentored local faculty.  Many of the volunteers originally visited IUBAT as nursing students themselves, through the arrangements that their own school had with the Project.  Some students came solo, others in groups with an instructor.

One such academic partnership was with the University of Vermont (UVM) through Professor Rycki Maltby. The relationship between the two institutions was featured in the book, Innovative Teaching Strategies in Nursing and Related Health Professions by authors Martha Bradshaw and Arlene Lowenstein. The immersion course, offered to senior nursing students, was highlighted as a unique learning experience and noteworthy for instructors as a teaching example. IUBAT and the Bangladesh Health Project welcome future partnerships with academic institutions and any students that may have an interest in getting involved.

The Bangladesh Health Project has accommodated many volunteers in our guest house.  We are grateful for volunteer faculty, as we could not have succeeded without their assistance in building the scholastic foundation of the Project.  For pictures of the guest house, please check out our Flickr page and to read about volunteer opportunities, please visit our website.

Bangladesh Health Project Plans for 2017

As the Bangladesh Health Project (BHP) progresses, we focus on new priorities and needs. With IUBAT alumni now taking more senior roles as nurse educators and managers, our volunteers offer more mentoring and coaching and less student teaching. Looking ahead, these are our objectives:

  1. Provide mentoring support for faculty of IUBAT College of Nursing

BHP has completed mentorship and training of several cohorts of BSN students.  Our next goal is to strengthen nursing faculty capacity.  Through phone contact, e-mail and visiting faculty volunteers, we will assist with program development, classroom teaching, clinical supervision and student evaluation. As feasible, we will continue to supply textbooks and teaching materials. We will provide demonstration lectures for IUBAT nursing students and for staff at our teaching hospital sites.

  1. Support IUBAT graduates in their professional development

In recent years, we have supported IUBAT alumni working in hospitals, colleges and NGOs with mentorship for issues related to advanced education, nursing administration and access to technical information. We will continue supporting our graduates as they advance in their careers and undertake leadership roles.

  1. Develop resources to promote nurse education in Bangladesh

We will continue to offer textbooks to local nursing colleges, ideally establishing a central library for advanced materials, to be used by faculty and senior hospital staff. We will continue developing our Open Education Resource, an open-source collection of BSN curriculum materials for faculty to use in lesson preparation: www.OR4NED.com

  1. Build relationships with colleges and NGOs to improve health services in Bangladesh

We have good relationships with many health care organizations; some are practicum or internship sites for IUBAT, others offer good-quality education or health care services. Most are in Dhaka, while a few are in outlying areas. We will support these agencies as requested, with consultation and educational materials.

  1. Support research projects on quality of health education and health services

We will arrange student internships and projects to link local and global researchers. We have the potential to support some applied research projects on quality of health services, particularly for training and mentorship in research.

We continue to welcome volunteers, either working from home, or at our guest-house in Dhaka. Please contact us about current opportunities.

Volunteer Faculty Discusses her Unique Role with Project

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A recent volunteer, Roslyn Coltheart, answered some questions to allow us to share her experiences as a visitor to Bangladesh and a staff mentor at IUBAT.  Roslyn held a unique volunteer position as she was not an instructor to the nursing students, but rather, a mentor to new permanent faculty at IUBAT.  She is pictured above with faculty members and students at the 71st orientation program for new students (“Fresher”), for spring semester.  In the picture from left to right: Faisal (nursing student), Roslyn, Tutal (IUBAT graduate and now faculty), Khadizia (IUBAT faculty, graduate of armed forces medical college and the first non-IUBAT trained staff), Tahamina (IUBAT graduate and now faculty), Tithi (nursing student), Shoykit (nursing student), Shuvashish (IUBAT graduate and now faculty), and Elma (nursing student).

What were your roles/responsibilities in Bangladesh and when did you become involved with the Bangladesh Health Project?

“I first came across the Bangladesh Health Project in 2013, when I read an article in the American Journal of Nursing. At the time, I had just moved from Australia to Canada but filed the information away for future reference. In early 2015, I applied to volunteer with the Project. Initially hopeful to be there for the September to December 2015 semester, I had to delay due to Canadian immigration difficulties and arrived January 7th 2016, staying until April 16 2016, during spring semester. 

At this time in the Project, six IUBAT graduates had been hired as teachers and I was the first volunteer to join the project, not as a teacher myself but as a mentor for these young teachers. My roles and responsibilities were very autonomous and self directed. My main focus was not to teach, but to help guide the teachers to develop their confidence, teaching styles, assignment setting, exam marking etc. I would sit with teachers before class and help them prepare, join classes and give support, answer questions, join in discussions, read assignments and give feedback on marking. I also accompanied teachers and students to attend clinical placements and updated some old lectures. 

As I was not directly responsible for classes each week, I had more flexibility to travel some parts of Bangladesh whilst there.”

What/where is your current position/role (i.e. are you a practicing nurse, writing/teaching full time?)?

I am an Australian registered nurse and have now been living and working in Canada for 3 years. I graduated in 2004 and have predominantly worked in Emergency in that time frame. I am currently registered in BC and working in Emergency.

Can you share your overall impressions of Bangladesh and your experiences with the Project?

“I had a truly great experience in Bangladesh, I can’t believe the availability of so many different foods! I’m very happy I came across the Project and was able to experience it. I am also happy I came across it in the stage that it was at: during the transition of the graduates into lecturers, rather than as a teacher myself. I found the role interesting, challenging, stimulating and worthwhile, although I had a few challenges along the way! All of the teachers said I made a difference, but a mentee faculty member probably gave me the greatest insight into this when he said something along the lines of, “You may not realize the difference you have made, but we know.” It was also interesting to hear the students talk at the end about things they had learned from having me there – a few off the cuff remarks I made seemed to have made an impact! I have encouraged them all to keep in contact and they are aware I’m happy to help over email when and if they need it.”

Thank you for sharing your insight during a pivotal time during the Project’s development, Roslyn, and it is without doubt that your assistance and guidance has helped strengthen the foundation and shaped the growth of the nursing program at IUBAT.  We’re sure the students and faculty alike can wholeheartedly agree that your influence has been positive and beneficial for the future direction of the Bangladesh Health Project!

Former Faculty Furthers Field of Medical Language Competency

Attending a student cultural event at IUBAT
Melodie Hull, seen above with students in Bangladesh, is a former volunteer instructor with IUBAT and is currently publishing an article regarding the need for language competency in healthcare settings.  Melodie has also been involved in many other written works, amongst them, textbooks that focus on medical English and healthcare terminology.  In commemoration of Melodie’s achievements, we have invited her to talk about teaching in Bangladesh and her prolific work as an author.

1) What was your role/responsibilities with the Bangladesh Health Project?

I taught several classes, one of which was on disaster nursing.  I used an example of disaster nursing at IUBAT and the adjacent community, wherein the students explored the potential role of nurses, the integration of other professionals at the university, and the logistics of how to work with spontaneous, emergency-response teams (for example, working with engineering students to solve problems such as collapsed buildings, access to water, flooding, etc.).  As a consultant and researcher, I also co-created a 100+ page summary of findings and recommendations for medical and nursing English, and English language education at the university level (and above).

Melodie teaching Nursing in Bangladesh 2009
Teaching in an IUBAT classroom.

2) What is your current position/role (i.e. are you a practicing nurse, writing/teaching full time)?

I am a nurse-educator, academic and scholar.  I am full-time nursing faculty in the BSN program at College of the Rockies (in Cranbrook, BC), and part-time nursing faculty with Thompson Rivers University Open Learning (in Kamloops, BC).  I am fairly well-published and have presented at numerous nursing education, nursing, psychiatric/mental health, and medical English conferences worldwide.  I hope to speak at a mental health conference in Europe this year, if I am lucky.  My publications have largely been either nursing articles and textbooks, or in English language/English for specific purposes/medical English journals and textbooks.  I have been cited by others for a number of these topics.

1999 Teaching in Chiapas
Teaching at English summer school in Chiapas, Mexico.

3) Can you please share more about your publications and your most recent article?

I wrote a textbook published by F A Davis Company, Philadelphia, USA in 2010: Medical English Clear & Simple: a Practice-Based Approach to English for ESL Healthcare Professionals.  This book sold quite well internationally, but less well here in North America.  As a result, like many books of this genre by other experts, this book is no longer in print.

I have another textbook still on the market: Medical Language: Terminology in Context.  This is a new approach to medical terminology, asserting my stance that medical language (which includes medical English) is an advanced subset of language and should be learned in the context of real healthcare situations.  This book is designed for all health and allied health students.

I have been working for years, drawing attention to the need for language competency in the health professions.  My latest article on this topic is currently in press and pending publication for February 2016: Hull, Melodie: Medical language proficiency: A discussion of interprofessional language competencies and potential for patient risk.  International Journal of Nursing Studies. 

Teaching on Route 5, Cancun, Mexico
Teaching on Route 5 in Cancun, Mexico.

Melodie, thank you for sharing the extensive amount of accomplishments in your career, for which you have gained international recognition for.  The BSN students at IUBAT were lucky to have someone so well-versed in medical language instruct and guide them, and we hope to read many more of your publications in the future.

Caring Governor General’s Award Honours Dr. Karen Lund

Congratulations to Dr. Karen Lund, who was recently chosen to receive the Caring Governor General’s Award, a national honour bestowed upon Canadians who have spent a considerable amount of time towards volunteer efforts and helping others in Canada or abroad.  The Award recognizes the generous and selfless work of its recipients, and commends the compassionate example that is set for others.  Dr. Karen Lund has been involved with the Bangladesh Health Project since 2004, and currently serves as the program’s Visiting Faculty Chair.

UHL visit
Dr. Lund joins Dr. JoAnn Leavey as a fellow Caring Governor General’s Award recipient.  You can read about Dr. Leavey in our post here and more about the Caring Governor General’s Award recipient here.

An emphatic thank you to Dr. Karen Lund for your many years of contribution to the BHP; your involvement has undoubtedly influenced the success of the Project in the past, and the influence will continue for years to come.  The recognition is well-deserved!

Part II: Thank You, তোমাকে ধন্যবাদ, dhonnobaad to our Volunteers Working from Home

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Over the past decade, many people have volunteered time and resources to make the Bangladesh Health Project so successful. There were so many generous contributions:

– Many people donated money that was used to pay guest-house expenses for visiting faculty volunteers, for teaching materials, and for expenses such as audits or website fees.
– Some people donated money to subsidize poorer students, or for hepatitis immunization so that all the nursing students were protected.  Several people donated used computer equipment, all of which were “tuned up” by Pete Jones of IT Works.
– We received regular donations of textbooks from librarians at the College of Registered Nurses of BC and from graduating Canadian students.
– Christina Paone of Paone Creative designed and updated our beautiful website, which has been visited thousands of times by people all over the world.
– Jen Preston helped manage volunteer applications, Helen Trung maintains the blog, Sara Jackson manages our recognition program for returning faculty and gathers textbooks.
– Students and faculty at Vancouver Community College and at University of Vermont raised funds locally before making their site visits to IUBAT.
– Irene Clarence, the Executive Director at Mid-Main Clinic, has provided terrific support over the entire period of the BHP.

We are grateful to all these globally-minded colleagues and friends who have helped the project from their own homes and workplaces.

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Finally, thank you to our website visitors and our blog readers, who have been steadily gaining in numbers.  Our boundless gratitude for your continued interest in the BHP’s progress and for your support.  Our humble site and international efforts have attracted visitors from all around the world.  Being able to share our stories with interested parties, potential and past volunteers, current/former students and everyone in between is something that we truly value.