Nursing students get hands-on experience at Ecuador clinic

A group of nursing students volunteer in Ecuador.

For students in the UK College of Nursing, getting first-hand experience working in a clinical setting is an integral part of their training. Recently, five students went beyond the clinics and hospitals of the Bluegrass to apply their training in a different setting: the Centro Médico Hombro a Hombro clinic in Ecuador.

Hands-on work

The five nursing students, Gabrielle Boehman, Erin Costigan, Mikala Knox, Kelsey Michael and Madeline Vittiow, along with Ana Maria Linares, associate professor in the College of Nursing, worked alongside medical providers at several clinic sites over the course of a week taking vital signs and collecting lab samples.

They also taught patients how to manage their health. College of Nursing senior Kelsey Michael noted the importance of teaching patients how to manage chronic health conditions.

“We had the opportunity to provide education on diabetes and hypertension,” said Michael. “Since the patients did not have access to constant medical care, these conditions were very common and they needed education on how to manage them.” The students also tested pediatric patients for anemia, a common condition in the children of Ecuador.

Gabrielle Boehman, a senior in the College of Nursing, had the opportunity to exercise her nursing skills and her Spanish in a real-world setting.

“I learned that it is crucial to figure out and understand what is important to the members of each culture,” said Boehman. “Before jumping in to help someone, I first need to step back and understand what they believe is important.”

Shoulder to Shoulder Global

The students participated as part of Shoulder to Shoulder Global, a UK Global Health Initiatives organization that integrates academic and community partners to improve the health and well-being of an underserved community in Santo Domingo, Ecuador. Over the years, more than one thousand UK students, faculty, staff and community partners have traveled to Ecuador to provide services such as basic medical and dental care, health education, school health screenings, women’s health, home visits and community-based learning.

Students from all academic disciplines can apply to be part of one of the four brigades that travel to Ecuador each year. Three of the brigades are clinical and provide health services at a full-time clinic that is supported by UK. The fourth brigade is non-clinical and focuses on health literacy.

“The students enroll in an Inter-professional Global Health course to prepare them for the experience,” said Hartley Feld, PhD, a member of the Shoulder to Shoulder Leadership committee who also oversees the nursing aspect of the trips and faculty in the preparation course for the inter-professional students. “The course involves learning about Ecuador as a whole, including healthcare systems, cultural practices and values, and social determinants of health in the community our clinic serves.”

Dr. Thomas Young, professor of pediatrics at UK and founder of Shoulder to Shoulder added: “Our UK nursing students are always hardworking, caring and an essential part  of our inter-professional health brigade. They bring great passion and skills to our team. Wonderful observing them gain confidence and enthusiasm for their profession over the week.”

Inspiration for their future

For Michael and Boehman, the experience had a lasting effect and helped inform their career plans.

“I now know for a fact that I want to make this brigade, or other brigades like this one, part of my future as a nurse,” said Boehman. “I would also like to work in an area that is heavily populated with Spanish-speaking individuals because I really enjoy working with individuals of those cultures. This brigade has also made me consider becoming a nurse practitioner. I am very grateful that this brigade has inspired me to consider furthering my education in nursing.”

Michael added: “This experience reignited my passion for nursing. People were so grateful for the medical care they received, and it just reminded me why I chose nursing.”

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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