The Catholic University of America

July 15, 2010

Asian Nursing Students Immerse Themselves in U.S. Health Care System

  Associate Professor of Nursing Nalini Jairath talks to exchange students about nursing research.

Japanese nursing major Nikora Endo was surprised to learn that in the United States hospital nurses often work three 12-hour days rather than the typical five days a week 9-to-5 in Japan.

Working fewer days enables nurses to pursue graduate studies or other professional development opportunities, Endo noted earlier this week, with a little help from an interpreter.

Endo and 19 other nursing students from Japan and Korea are immersing themselves in the U.S. health care system as part of a two-week exchange program sponsored by CUA’s School of Nursing.

Since their arrival at Catholic University over the July 4th weekend, the students have been busy visiting Washington, D.C., area medical centers and taking in presentations by CUA nursing faculty members on topics ranging from health care systems to issues in pediatric nursing to licensure and credentialing.

The students, who are staying at the Millennium North residence hall, are rising juniors and seniors from Seibo College of Nursing in Tokyo and two schools in South Korea — the Catholic University of Korea in the capital city of Seoul and Mokpo Catholic University in South Jeolla Province, on the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula.

Few of them speak English and only three had ever been to the United States before they arrived in Washington. But accompanied by both Japanese and Korean interpreters and professors from their home universities, the students are learning that nursing has its own universal language.

“During their time at Catholic University, the students learn about different aspects of nursing and nursing education in the United States,” said Patricia McMullen, dean of nursing. “Their visits to a variety of health care centers give them a sense of where nursing is headed in the U.S.”

McMullen noted that the exchange students also learn about the differences between nursing in the United States and their home countries. “U.S. nurses have come a little farther along in advanced practice nursing than nurses in Japan and Korea,” McMullen said.

She noted that neither Japan nor Korea offer nurse anesthesia, a discipline established in this country in the late 1800s and recognized as the first clinical nursing specialty. Nurse midwives in those countries do not have the authority to prescribe medicine as their U.S. counterparts do. “They have a different level of autonomy than nurses have in the U.S.,” McMullen added.

During their stay, the students have visited the Family Health and Birth Center in Northeast D.C.; Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore; SOME (So Others Might Eat) in Northwest D.C.; and the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, where they talked to a U.S. Army nurse staff member who works on legislative issues related to nursing and the law.

The exchange program has brought Korean students to CUA for a couple of weeks every summer since 2004. Japanese nursing students participated in the program for the first time in 2008. The overseas universities did not send students to CUA last summer because of concerns about the H1N1 virus.

Following their arrival in D.C. over the July 4th weekend, some of the students attended a Washington Nationals baseball game at the team’s ballpark in Southeast D.C. while others opted for another American pastime: shopping, at the Pentagon City Mall.

Endo, 22, is a student at small Seibo College, which is planning to merge next year with the larger Sophia University, a Jesuit institution in Tokyo. Her participation in the exchange program marks her first visit to the United States. She said she hopes to visit the Lincoln Memorial and other historic sites during her remaining time in D.C.

Catholic University recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Sophia University, which will enable the exchange program to continue after the merger with Seibo College.

Following a farewell dinner Friday evening in Curley Hall’s Monsignor Stephen J. Happel Room, the students depart Saturday for their home countries. Endo says she is looking forward to sharing her impressions of CUA and the D.C. area with her family and friends. “I have enjoyed my visit to Catholic University, the lectures and Washington, D.C. I’d like to come back.”

MEDIA: For more information about CUA’s nursing exchange program, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.


Established in 1935, Catholic University’s School of Nursing offers undergraduate, master's, D.N.P. and Ph.D. programs. The school’s academic programs have long provided outstanding nursing education that clearly emphasizes the role of ethics, values and spirituality in health care. Students in CUA's nursing programs gain clinical experience in more than 80 of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area’s premier health care facilities, often with alumni preceptors. The research-intensive Ph.D. program and the evidence-based clinical D.N.P. program both offer easy access to premier research and health facilities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine. The academic programs consistently receive national recognition for excellence, attesting to the strength of the school’s programs and faculty.

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