The practicum is a typical part of any nursing program. At Harford, it occurs during the final semester of a nursing student’s program. The opportunity to apply what you’ve learned and the experiences gained are foundational to becoming a skilled leader in healthcare. One truly unique opportunity can have a wide-ranging impact on a student. A chance to make a difference in the lives of others through a global experience is even more exceptional.

A partnership agreement established in 2014 between the Town of Bel Air, Maryland and sister city Narva, Estonia, led to an exciting partnership program with University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health and Harford Community College’s nursing program. The agreement was created with the intent to foster educational exchanges, workforce development and healthcare partnerships, and mutual prosperity through interaction among recreational and business entrepreneurs promoting investment, extending commerce and international trade. To that end, health care initiatives were identified as a top priority.

Under the leadership of Jesse Bane, Bel Air Town Administrator, Committees on Health Care and Education were formed at the beginning of the partnership to explore potential initiatives. After extensive discussions between representatives of the Town of Bel Air and Narva, the need for workshops for high school students on HIV/AIDS education and prevention was identified by the secondary school principals, health care providers, and members of the city government of Narva.

Last May, representatives of the sister cities met in Bel Air and announced that Harford Community College would be sending six nursing students to Narva in late 2017 to provide the needed HIV/AIDS education to more than 600 high school students in grades 10 through 12. Six students were selected from among the pool of applicants from the potential graduating class of December 2017: Meaghan Butterfield, Stephanie Crutchley, Emily Parker, Julie Rinker, Abigail Shibley, and Kirsten Smith.

The Harford nursing students were extensively involved with the preparation and presentation of the course materials, which were left with the Narva schools so the benefits of the educational program continue well beyond this effort, and may be used to educate the youth of Narva in the coming years. Three advisers accompanied the students: Dr. Barbara Tower, a professor emeritus at Community College of Baltimore County; Julie Siejack, Upper Chesapeake’s clinical nurse manager for community health improvement; and Tina Zimmerman, professor of nursing at Harford Community College. Dr. Stephanie Hallock, coordinator for Global Education and Engagement and professor of political science at Harford Community College, also traveled to Narva, representing Harford and the Bel Air/Narva steering committee.

This innovative experience provided these nursing students with the opportunity to actively engage in a global experience. In addition to teaching, the students visited health care facilities, historical sites, and attended cultural events in Estonia.