During a three-week visit to the University of Jordan Hospital in Amman, seven Brigham Young University nursing students quickly learned the importance of nonverbal communication and the power of touch, holding a patient’s hand, a warm smile or a friendly “marhaba.”
Although some of the doctors and nurses spoke English, most did not. The majority of patients spoke only Arabic, and fellow Jordanian nursing students spoke very little English.
“I know I will have patients that I won’t be able to talk to for one reason or another, but that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate,” said Amie Ostler. “Touch and facial expressions can be effective in expressing your ideas and your willingness to serve. Trust can be built even when two people don’t speak the same language.”
One objective for BYU nursing students was to mentor Jordanian nursing students, who were textbook and classroom prepared, but were just beginning their clinical experience.
“We taught each other how to be better nurses,” Ostler explained. “We combined their knowledge and our clinical experience to accomplish a common goal. I learned the importance of teamwork and being willing to continually learn and being open to other people’s ideas and suggestions to reach the desired outcome.”
The University of Jordan Hospital differs from U.S. hospitals in that hospital floors are divided into male and female sides. Patient rooms are small, with no more than two feet of available space around each bed. Family members are always at the bedside, providing emotional support and comfort to the patient, which often complicates nursing responsibilities due to lack of space.
Family and patient education by doctors and nurses is not as prevalent as in the United States. Education for the prevention of disease is in the grassroots stage. When BYU nursing students taught an obesity-prevention class at the hospital, the need for additional health-related education became apparent.
Former BYU nursing faculty member A. Elaine Bond arranged the intensive clinical experience. A 2006 Fulbright Scholar to Jordan, she spent the past three years there as director of the doctoral program at the University of Jordan Faculty of Nursing.
In addition to completing their clinical requirements for BYU’s N400 Global Health and Human Diversity course, the students enjoyed attending the Jordanian Nursing Council, meeting Princess Muna (mother of His Majesty King Abdullah II), appearing on national television and attending a reception at the U.S. Embassy.
Whitney Lemmon and fellow students accepted a dinner invitation from one of the Jordanian nursing students.
“We were warmly greeted at her home with hugs and kisses that transmitted a message of welcome and love, despite our inability to communicate in Arabic. As the evening progressed, we participated in a family dance party. We scarcely used words the entire night. Regardless, I was able to discern the importance Jordanians place on hospitality, family relationships and observance of modesty.”
“I discovered the Muslim men and women of Jordan to be some of the most kind, welcoming people on this earth. Seeing how loving and kind these people were helped me to respect our differences and find love I did not know existed,” she said.
For more information, contact Rose Ann Jarrett at (801) 422-4143.
Writer: Rose Ann Jarrett