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DECATUR — Wendy Chien was looking forward to her ride in an ambulance Thursday morning. The 20-year-old nursing student attends National Taiwan University and is part of a group of Taiwanese nursing students and an instructor visiting Decatur this month.

On Thursday, the students got the opportunity to ride along on calls with crews from Decatur Ambulance Service.

Millikin University and St. Mary’s Hospital are coordinating the 15 students’ cultural and educational experiences during the month-long visit. Students also are engaging in a mentorship program with St. Mary’s employees, serving and learning in various hospital departments in addition to visiting sites throughout the community.

“Today they’re going to ride along with the ambulances and experience emergency services all the way from the patient to the hospital or the office — wherever they may have to go today,” said Theresa Rutherford, St. Mary’s chief operating officer. “It should be fun for them. They should learn a lot, and we appreciate the ambulance company helping us with this today.”

The visit is a mixture of hands-on learning, classroom work and social activities, Rutherford said.

“That helps them understand our health care system because it’s very different from theirs,” she said.

Bill Wood, EMS coordinator for St. Mary’s, said the idea to take the students on ambulance ride-alongs originated several years ago. The ambulance service’s president and CEO, David Burkham, actually suggested the activity.

“Some of them are going to be working in emergency departments (when they finish their nursing education),” said Wood, adding that the cultural exchange can be informative for the visitors and their guides.

Nick Hsieh, 21, also was excited for his ambulance ride. He and the rest of the visiting nursing students attend China Medical University, Taiwan.

“I want to see something different,” he said.

Hsieh said he and the other students have been learning about the local nurses’ roles in their workplaces and community.

“I like to take care of people,” said Chien, whose career goal is to work with cancer patients.

Chien said she is excited about the learning experiences she has had so far and some of the technology she has seen during her visit to the United States.


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