College of Nursing students served more than 550 patients in January 2019 in Guatemala. The trip was the inaugural excursion in what will be biannual study abroad opportunities. Organized by Interim Associate Dean for Academic Programs Natalie Murphy in conjunction with the nonprofit Nursing Heart, Inc., the student nurses visited the indigenous communities of El Quimal La Joya and Alotenango, where they set up primary care and women’s health clinics. During the week long experience, students earned three credits and 40 residency hours toward their degrees. In both villages, residents invited the student nurses into their homes, shared stories, cooked traditional lunches and performed elaborate welcoming and farewell ceremonies. In El Quimal La Joya, which had never before been visited by medical providers.
According to Murphy, nursing students who study abroad are more likely to work with underserved populations in the U.S., have expanded attitudes on diversity, learn about culture and cultural humility and increase their skills as practitioners. “There was a lot of personal growth that came from this trip,” she says. “It switches you out of the ‘I want to go abroad and help people’ and refocuses you on underserved populations back at home.”