On the Front Lines of Global Health
Chamberlain College of Nursing’s focus on student success extends well beyond the classroom and clinical environments
Imagine providing healthcare services to thousands of low-income residents across the globe – some of whom have had no prior medical care – while juggling obstacles including limited-to-no water and electricity and only having access to the supplies and medications that can fit inside of a suitcase with a 50-pound weight restriction.
This is the reality for each student nurse that makes up the care team in Chamberlain’s Global Health Education Program experiences, previously known as the International Nursing Service Project. These students have the opportunity to venture beyond their classroom and local community to expand their educational horizons through a full spectrum of social, cause-related and field experiences.
Since 1993, Dr. Susan Fletcher, EdD, MSN, BSN, Global Health Education Chair, has led students on two- to three-week service project immersion experiences to Brazil, Kenya, India, Bolivia, the Philippines, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. Through these trips, students gain a deeper understanding of cultural and economic differences and receive firsthand experience in addressing healthcare concerns outside the clinical setting as they personally contribute to transforming healthcare delivery at a global level.
More than ever before, the impact global healthcare has on the U.S. is striking. As tourism and globalization of business rise worldwide, so does the spread of disease from foreign countries. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promoting heath abroad is key to protecting the health of the U.S. population. Chamberlain students are doing their part to effect positive change abroad through Global Health Education Program experiences, and returning with the skills to improve healthcare in the U.S.
Responding To Growing Diversity In Healthcare
In the United States, 20 million people currently receive healthcare services through community health centers, and new legislation has designated funds to expand their capacity. At the same time, the U.S. population is rapidly becoming more diverse. The proportion of non-Hispanic white residents will peak in 2024 as the U.S. populations of Hispanic, black, American Indian, Alaska Natives and Asian Americans increase. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the country will become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043.
As this increasingly diverse population obtains access to health insurance coverage, healthcare professionals who work in community health centers and more traditional settings, such as hospitals, will require extensive knowledge in community and multicultural care.
Comprising the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, registered nurses are well positioned to meet these industry needs. In fact, in the 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine recommended that nurses gain the competencies needed to provide care for diverse populations.
“The immersion learning experience is eye opening for many students,” Dr. Fletcher explained. “Nurses are leading the transformation of healthcare, so it is vital that they prepare to work in diverse settings and provide care for patients of all ethnicities and walks of life.”
Bringing It Back Home
Chamberlain students who travel the globe through Global Health Education Program Experiences witness the dire healthcare needs of underprivileged areas. They return with more than real-world healthcare experience; they recall lifelong memories of smiling, appreciative faces and embraces of thanks that broke through the language barrier.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing stresses the need for a culturally diverse nursing workforce to better respond with cultural sensitivity to the healthcare needs of diverse patient populations. Hands-on learning experiences abroad equip students with the real-world foundation to continue to develop and apply these sensitivities in the clinical setting. For many Chamberlain students, Global Health Education Program Experiences are both the foundation for providing compassionate care and the first step in a lifetime of contributions to advancing healthcare.
Claire Mack, BSN Alumna, Cleveland Campus
Destination: Dominican Republic
While in Tabagua, Dominican Republic, a group of 28 nurses and student nurses staffed clinics in settlements up to an hour’s drive away. They worked with Project Helping Hands, a non-profit organization that provides health education and medical care in developing countries, to secure meals and prepare the clinics for their arrival.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing alumna Claire Mack still tears up when she describes one of the men who came to the impromptu clinics the nurses set up in schools, backyards and churches in this nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
“This man came in carrying a machete,” she said. “He was dirty and ragged, missing several teeth and complaining of lower back pain. He told us he had 10 kids and was having trouble working hard enough to feed them all. Then, in Spanish, he added, ‘You are doing acts of kindness so we can live.’”
The student nurses educated the community, teaching basic first aid and CPR.
“In one session, we taught them how to make a splint and sent the kids out to find things they could use to make one,” Mack said, noting the litter that fills the area. “They found the most amazing things and came back all excited by what they found."
Sarah Turner, BSN Alumna, Phoenix Campus
On a trip to Kenya, students participated in home visits to patients who were unable to travel. During one stop, the group encountered a man who had been hit by a truck and fractured his femur the year before. He was unable to pay the $500 it would have cost to repair his broken bone. As a result, the man lived in pain with a broken leg for almost one year, leaving him unable to work or provide for his wife and young child and risking eviction.
The Chamberlain students were touched by the man’s story, and ultimately decided that they wanted to do something to help him. As the group had limited funding to provide care for the community, one student turned to her friends back in the U.S. to drum up support to help pay for the surgery.“I kept thinking – how can we not help him?” said Bachelor of Science in Nursing alumna Sarah Turner.
She decided to launch a crowd-sourcing initiative to raise the money from her Facebook friends. Within a few short days, the kindness of strangers had translated into enough money to repair the man’s broken femur and get him on a path to recovery.