More than 50 students and faculty from the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing participated in a simulation project to raise awareness and learn about the treatment of refugees fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in the United States.

The simulation, “Refugee Project- Escape to Freedom,” was sponsored by World Relief Seattle. It featured four different stations simulating the types of experiences and challenges refugees face with agencies when entering America: a United Nations interview, food rations, a medical clinic, and an HIV/AIDS clinic. The photograph above pictures nursing students who are portraying a family from Afghanistan at a United Nations interview simulation.

Sharon Miller, a WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing student ambassador, helped plan the event, and believes this to be an invaluable experience for nurses.

“Every nursing student will most likely, in some way, cross paths with a refugee,” said Miller. She hopes the experience will raise awareness of the conditions refugees face.

“The only way we can do this is to catch a glimpse of the hardships they have endured when trying to navigate everything from shelter to health care,” she said.

Participants were split into “families” representing six countries: Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Ukraine, Somalia, and Sudan. Each “family” was given ethnic attire, their history and official information, and whether any members were able to speak English. Students spoke with accents and, at times, through mock interpreters to make the experience more authentic.

They then rotated to each station and experienced what it was like to go through the process thousands of refugees go through each year. Participants dealt with hostile interviewers, impatient clinic workers, and frustration with language barriers. They waited in long lines, were given paltry food rations and told they would share a tent with one other family.

After the simulation, students and faculty gathered to discuss the experience. Reactions ranged from feeling scared, intimidated or belittled, to feeling like they weren’t human.

Leryn Forsmann, a student partcipant, said, “It makes you realize people do have different cultures,” and that the process of allowing refugees to start their new lives would get further without aggression.

Janet Katz, an assistant professor at the college, believes the program is beneficial to helping students better understand the concept of giving culturally competent care, a main goal of many of the courses nursing students take. The goal is to teach cultural assessment, intercultural communication and interpretation of behavior. The simulation spoke directly to this “cultural competency” theme.

“The refugee project should really drive home the idea that health care is local and global, that what happens internationally effects us in the U.S. because many people are forced to cross borders to live,” said Katz.

World Relief is a non-profit Christian organization that provides services such as resettlement, employment placement, translation, immigration and legal services to refugees. The “Refugee Project- Escape to Freedom” program is available to youth groups, college clubs and schools. Participants range in age from middle school to adults.