By Amanda Boundris
June 13, 2012
A clinical placement in Nigeria would be an incredible opportunity for any nursing student; a chance to learn about the health-care system there, different health challenges in another part of the world, and to really grow as a nurse. For McMaster student Osahon Osawe, it was an "eye-opening and exhilarating" chance of a lifetime for personal reasons as well.
While completing his 12-week placement at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in the fall of 2011, Osawe had the unique opportunity to connect with relatives for the very first time and stay with them. He said it was "remarkable" to enjoy home-cooked meals by his 98-year-old grandmother, who he had just met, and to meet and spend time with his eldest brother, Bright, two aunts, four uncles, and several nieces and nephews.
"That first day, they could not let me go. They were hugging me. I was off my feet the whole day," said Osawe. "The house was just booming. Everybody's joy came out."
On Friday, June 15 Osawe will be one of 445 students graduating from the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) Program at Hamilton Place.
Osawe's parents and the rest of his family are from Nigeria. The 23-year-old is the youngest of nine siblings — he has seven brothers and one sister — and was the only one born in Canada.
In the mid 1980's his father came here, followed by his mother, to try for a better life for their children. Most of Osawe's siblings joined their parents in the early 1990's.
Osawe was accompanied by his mother and a brother on this trip, which was the first time he set foot in the West African country. "You can imagine the curiousity I would have about my culture," he said.
Having the family connection there was a bonus, but Osawe chose an international placement "to get a different perspective of health care and to open my mind in seeing what is out there," he said.
"I wanted to know more about the culture because that is my background, but I wanted to know how culture affects health," he explained, noting he learned first-hand how climate, geography and spiritual beliefs influence health.
Working on a pediatric ward, he also learned some tough lessons.
"I saw a lot of children die. It was emotional for me because I love children," he said. "But as much as they're my patients and my heart goes out to their families, I had to realize that death and dying will be part of my nursing practice, and learn to have empathy without getting too emotionally attached."
Osawe said the most valuable thing he learned from his time in the nursing program is to be persistent.
"If I don't know the answer, I have to find the answer," he said, adding he appreciated the problem-based and self-directed learning he experienced at McMaster. "Now, if there's something I don't know about – a symptom, a medication – I go the extra mile to find out in order to give my patient the best care. This is my duty as a nurse."
The Brampton native is currently looking for work in the GTA. "I'm excited for what my future holds in nursing and I think McMaster has prepared me so well."
The BScN degrees will be awarded at McMaster University's convocation ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on June 15. In addition, five PhD and three master's nursing students will receive graduate degrees. Graduates in medical radiation sciences will also receive their degrees at this ceremony.
An honorary Doctor of Science degree will be conferred on Nancy Edwards, a professor with the University of Ottawa's School of Nursing and Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine; director of the Community Health Research Unit; and scientific director of the Institute of Population and Public Health in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.