An exchange program between Creighton University and a Chinese university is expanding to include pharmacy and medical specialists.
Officials from Creighton and Hebei Medical University in Shijiazhuang on Tuesday signed an agreement in Omaha allowing for the expansion.
Since 2008, Creighton has sent groups of about a dozen students and faculty members to the Chinese university's orthopedic hospital during fall breaks. Nursing and occupational and physical therapy students and instructors consult with their Chinese counterparts, help treat patients, train rehabilitation workers and learn about traditional Chinese medicine, said Keli Mu, an associate professor and chairman of Creighton's Department of Occupational Therapy.
Each year, the Chinese have sent two physicians to Creighton for a year's worth of training. They audit physical and occupational therapy classes, shadow clinicians, observe surgeries and visit rehabilitation hospitals and nursing homes.
“Rehab is very new in China,” said Mu, who is from China. “It's in the infancy stage.”
The United States, he said, has about 133,000 licensed occupational therapists for its population, which now exceeds 316 million people. China, he said, has several hundred licensed OTs for a population that tops 1.3 billion.
Shijiazhuang is a city of more than 10 million people about 170 miles southwest of Beijing. Hebei Medical University has about 25,600 students and six affiliated hospitals with more than 4,500 inpatient beds.
The surgical suites and intensive care units in the hospital where the Creighton visitors work are as technologically advanced as those in American hospitals, said Catherine Carrico, an assistant professor of nursing at Creighton. The medical-surgical and postoperative floors, however, lack all the bedside monitors that are common here, she said.
Patients' family members play a major role in patient care in China, said Carrico, who has taken three trips to China and is set to go again in October.
“Part of this interaction is to help us understand their culture,” she said, “and how we can help them to fit our knowledge into their culture. It's not our intent to say, 'This is how you have to do it.' ”
The University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha's other academic medical institution, also has ties to China, including faculty exchanges aimed at developing more and better rural and family doctors there.
The Creighton students have learned a lot from the visits, Carrico said, and the new agreement is “kind of a milestone in the relationship.” Adding the medical school and pharmacy students to the program, she said, is “a great opportunity for more learning opportunities for everybody involved.”