July 14, 2011

Nursing students and faculty span the globe to provide medical care to those in need

Nursing students in the Migrant Farm Worker Family Health Program spent two weeks providing critical nursing care to more than 15,000 farm workers and their families.

This summer, students of Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing's accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) program embarked on a two-week immersion experience at five sites around the world—the City of Refuge in Atlanta, Moultrie, Ga., West Virginia, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

From June 12 to 24, ABSN students worked with local health care providers and community partners to provide health care, community assessments, program evaluations and a sustainability project in each location. Though service learning has long been a pillar of the nursing school, this is the first time an immersion experience of this magnitude has been offered.

At the City of Refuge, students worked in the HEALing Community Center, a community clinic that provides health care and various resources to Atlanta's homeless population. The students focused on the maternal-child homeless population and interacted with more than 500 patients and residents of Eden Village at the City of Refuge, which also serves as transitional housing for mothers and their children. The HEALing Community Center provides primary care and outpatient surgery.

Just four hours away in South Georgia, another team of nursing students in the Migrant Farm Worker Family Health Program spent two weeks providing critical nursing care to more than 15,000 farm workers and their families. The nursing students examined children by day and set up mobile clinics, treating adult farm workers in the evening, while evaluating the impact the program has had on the community since its inception in 1994.

A new partnership in West Virginia

For the first time, nursing students and faculty traveled to West Virginia to partner with Cabin Creek Health System. Students evaluated how well the health system's Medicaid disabled population's mental health needs are being met. They saw patients in clinics and in their homes, asking them about their mental health needs and issues that drive patients to use other sources of care such as emergency departments and urgent care centers.

In the Bahamas, nursing students were stationed on the small island of Eleuthera to further develop partnerships with community organizations, educational institutions and the Bahamian Ministry of Health. The students are evaluating what Bahamian communities view as priorities for their health and then assessing what strengths and areas of growth exist. Emory nurses are working with local nurses to provide primary care to clinic patients and conduct health education seminars for primary and secondary school students.

In the Dominican Republic, Emory is partnering with two programs in Hospital San Vincente de Paul's in San Francisco de Macoris. Students evaluated the volunteer doula program and updated the data collection tool of the Kangaroo Mother Care project, a method of caring for premature infants that involves constant skin to skin contact in place of an incubator. Additionally, students visited hospitals at the provincial periphery and observed the workings of the referral system within the public health infrastructure.

Immersion experiences sharpen nursing skills, motivation

Teaching students more than just clinical care, service learning trips offer nursing students the opportunity to get inside unfamiliar cultures while facing real-world health care challenges such as working with interpreters and facing medical supply shortages.

"We often hear that opportunities like this take both our students and faculty back to the start of why they wanted to become nurses," says Corrine Abraham, a nursing instructor and the international academic and cultural exchange coordinator at the School of Nursing. "They not only enhance their clinical capabilities, but they also sharpen their caring skills, which are the heart our field."

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