The Ireland of Catherine McAuley’s day is a world away from today’s Detroit, but it still holds lessons and inspiration for healthcare workers and educators.
Those lessons were on display this summer when a group of 14 Detroit Mercy nursing students, alumni and faculty visited the country and the sites that inspired McAuley to found the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Dublin in 1831, in part to offer healthcare to the poor.
It was the second trip planned by the College of Health Professions’ McAuley School of Nursing and included stops at healthcare facilities to talk with nurses, nurse educators and students. Most memorable were visits to the home where Catherine McAuley lived and to the first house of Mercy built to respond to the needs of the city’s poor.
“It’s kind of a short-term study abroad, though it’s not connected to a course,” said retired Associate Professor of Nursing Judy Mouch, RSM.
She, along with Clinical Professor Andrea Kwasky and Associate Professor Mary Serowoky led the 10-day educational experience in June in conjunction with Mary Immaculate College, a small liberal arts institution in Limerick, Ireland, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy that is developing its international programming.
The group stayed in the college’s dorms, taking day trips to sites around Ireland before moving to Dublin for the end of the trip. It was eye-opening, both in how Ireland treats its sick and elderly, and for the way nurses there are educated.
“We met with many nursing students and our students saw how their education is conducted,” Kwasky said. “To begin with, college there is paid for. But it’s very competitive and you have to have a bachelor’s degree to practice. Nurses are highly valued and educated well, but the salaries are low so it’s hard for Ireland keep their nurses.”
“One thing that was very valuable for our students to see was the way nursing is done there,” Mouch added. “Nurses are not just taking care of patients, they are making connections with them.”
At a visit to a government-funded senior home they saw “no comparison” to similar facilities here in terms of the relationships developed between the caregivers and the residents. It also turned into a Motown karaoke performance by the Detroit Mercy contingent that was well received by workers and residents.
Serowoky believes the type of care in Ireland is a direct outgrowth of the famed Irish hospitality that never ceases to surprise her.
“Everywhere we went we were served tea and sandwiches and when we went to the Mercy Hospital in Cork, the CEO of the hospital spent several hours with us, pouring tea and discussing healthcare issues,” she said. “Imagine a CEO over here doing that.”
Maureen Duncan, who graduated from Mercy School of Nursing in 1972 and is a hospice nurse, said a visit to Ireland had always been on her bucket list. This trip with Mouch, who is a longtime friend, was a unique opportunity because it came with an educational aspect. She was not disappointed she decided to go.
“The country is spectacular and we got to see a lot of it,” she said. “And traveling with nurses and nursing students was wonderful because when nurses get together, what we do is talk nursing.”
She also talked nursing with a hospice worker at a senior home in Ireland and said it was “like talking with someone I know and work with,” she said. “It was interesting to see how we’re different in culture, but have a lot in common.”
As a Catholic, Duncan found the trip to be a spiritual experience, as well, especially when visiting the sites where McAuley worked and lived.
“I didn’t realize how much she did to bring better medicine, or any medicine for that matter, to the poor,” she said. “It was inspiring.”
Duncan was also inspired by the students.
“It was fun being with them,” she said. “Getting to know them I saw they have done and will do a lot to make University very proud of them.”
Though this trip is not connected with a class, that might happen in the future. A third trip is planned next summer and Mouch is looking for fellow travelers.