UMSN Increases Opportunities for an Undergraduate Global Experience

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Traditional BSN students travel to Ecuador as part of an updated Community Health course.

“More and more undergraduates were seeking out global experiences, so we felt it was important to offer them an opportunity through a course,” says University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) Clinical Instructor Norma J. Sarkar, MPStudents listen to a local midwifeH, RN. “We had offered it to Second Career students but this was the first time for traditional BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) undergrads.”

Led by Sarkar and UMSN Clinical Instructor Megan Eagle, MSN, FNP-BC, six UMSN students and five Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) students recently spent two-and-a-half weeks in Quito, Ecuador, and surrounding communities. The students were assigned as teams to work with staff and clients at one of six local health clinics and participate in home visits. Each team also gave a health education presentation in Spanish on a variety of topics including breastfeeding, immunization, nutrition, and handwashing, at different locations including schools and the clinics.

Zachary Cavell and Camille Martin give their health education presentation“We utilized the course to teach them not only about public health principles but to prepare them for the global health experience by doing a community assessment of Quito,” says Sarkar. “In the community assessment, they identified an issue and designed an evaluation. They had to work a little harder to find the information, but when they got to Quito they knew much more about the country.” In class, the students focused on a national initiative aimed at lowering adolescent pregnancy rates and carried out their evaluation in Ecuador by interviewing Ministry of Health clinic employees.

 “I think that the most interesting part was being able to observe the health care system and Students learn about the birthing balls frequently used during labor and deliverysee the differences that exist when compared to the U.S., especially since I was able to observe community health practices as well,” says Jasmine Teamer, a 2013 graduate of UMSN. “I liked going door-to-door doing screenings for obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. I've never done anything like that in the U.S. It reminded me of the fact that you must assess the needs of the community and then provide information and education.”

A local midwife demonstrates her methodsDuring the school year, Sarkar and Eagle combined their courses for special events, such hosting a midwife from Ecuador as a guest speaker. Then, when in Ecuador, the students were able to meet with other midwives and tour their birthing facilities. Also during class, the students Skyped with a researcher currently examining the contaminant and health concerns of workers in the flower growing industry. While in Ecuador, the students visited a town and clinic that services the workers.

“All of the guest speakers, clinic experiences and the hospital tour in Cayambe helped meRecent nursing graduate Maria Nguyen explores waterfalls in Ecuador realize how much cultural differences can affect health systems and to appreciate cultural differences even more,” says Zachary Cavell, also a 2013 UMSN graduate. “I appreciate the new view of culturally sensitive care that I have gained from this program and learning about a health care system that is different than in the U.S. It was challenging adjusting to a new environment, culture and language, but I feel it has prepared me well to start my nursing career.”

“One of the things that I am taking back is their diligence in community outreach,” says LSA recent graduate Camille Martin. "When promoting health, the women at my clinic were fearless and were on a mission to get infants vaccinated. I can only hope to be as fearless when carrying out my interventions in HIV/AIDS.”

Nursing course 421 (also open to LSA students) will offer an international experience to Quito again in June 2014. Interested students are invited to learn more.