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Tuesday September 23, 2014

Service Learning Experiences Take Rutgers-Camden Nursing Students Abroad

News Release
Friday March 8, 2013

Service Learning Experiences Take Rutgers-Camden Nursing Students Abroad

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CAMDEN —Students
at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden are going global with their healthcare
education.

Having access to basic healthcare services is of vital
importance to people living in all parts of the world. To truly understand the
healthcare needs of other cultures, Rutgers–Camden nursing students are
participating in service learning opportunities that are taking them to Brazil,
Guatemala, and South Africa.  

Nursing in South Africa

Rutgers-Camden nursing students and faculty in South Africa in 2012.

“In the
nursing community, we work with many different kinds of people from around the
world,” says Kevin Emmons, a clinical assistant professor at the Rutgers
School of Nursing–Camden. “Healthcare
is global. It’s important for nurses to understand different cultures and
different areas of care. That’s what makes nursing holistic.”

For the third
year in a row, Emmons and Rutgers–Camden Nursing Dean Joanne Robinson are
leading a group of 30 students to Guatemala, where they will educate people of
underserved communities on the importance of personal healthcare, diet and
nutrition.

“In many of
these areas, there are no grocery stores or fresh markets, so we work to teach
the people there about nutrition, we perform blood pressure screenings, test
for diabetes, and work with the communities to improve basic public health,”
Emmons says.

Stephen Anagnostos,
a senior Rutgers–Camden nursing student from Delran traveling to Guatemala again
this year, says he was surprised to learn that many people there have limited
access to healthcare and lack knowledge of common healthcare practices.

“Many of the prevention measures we take
in the U.S. are not commonly known there,” Anagnostos says. “For example, when
we did screenings for hypertension and diabetes, most of the locals we
encountered didn’t know the risks, dangers, or preventive factors for either
health conditions.”

Anagnostos continues, “In Guatemala, barriers already exist in
hindering health education to prevent specific illnesses. This makes
it even harder to provide screenings and treatments, which would normally
lead to long term follow-up care.” 

The
Rutgers–Camden clinics seem to be making an impact, at least for a small
portion of the population. Emmons says Guatemalan women have come to the
Rutgers–Camden health fairs from miles away to receive basic care and
information.

The
Rutgers–Camden contingent is also partnering with the Highland Support Project,
a non-governmental organization that seeks to foster empowerment and increase
productivity of indigenous people in the Western Highlands of Guatemala.

This year, the students are helping to build stoves in Guatemalan
homes to ensure that residents can safely cook their meals. Cooking on open
flames in small spaces can cause smoky conditions that lead to respiratory
problems. 

Guatemala
isn’t the only country where Rutgers–Camden nursing students are making a
difference through service learning initiatives.

Another March
trip is taking students to South Africa, where they also learn how to
reach out to people to provide culturally sensitive care. The experience allows
the nursing students to become better equipped to care for diverse populations
with a wide range of healthcare needs.

Nancy Powell, a visiting assistant clinical professor of
nursing and director of Rutgers–Camden’s RN-to-BSN program, is accompanying 17
students to South African cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg over spring
break.

“This trip
broadens the students’ understanding of different cultures,” Powell says. “The
experience helps them understand that while people of all cultures are
different, they all have the same health goals and they require care.”

In addition
to educating women of underserved communities in South Africa about HIV care
and prevention, the nursing students are donating clothing and medical supplies
to hospitals and orphanages there.

Last year,
the students brought with them a collection of text books so the hospitals
could start a nursing library.

“This year,
we plan to spend an entire day in a hospital so the students can see the
healthcare challenges nurses and their patients face there,” Powell says.

In May, after the conclusion of Rutgers–Camden’s spring
semester, a group of 12 nursing students are accompanying students from the
Rutgers School of Business–Camden to Brazil. The students will share in their
cultural experiences in the South American country, but have different service
learning components.

“One of the
most important aspects of service learning is to have the students go out and
learn about health disparities, access to medical care, and management of
chronic illnesses,” says Susan Norris, an assistant professor of nursing at
Rutgers–Camden who will lead the Brazil trip. “Service learning allows them to
be involved with communities and assess and address the needs of those
communities. In Brazil, there are large social disparities where there are some
people who have access to better healthcare, but others who do not have those
resources.”

This year’s
trip to Brazil is a pilot program for the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden and
Norris hopes to offer it as a full service learning course in the spring of
2014.

Course goals
include expanding student knowledge and understanding of global health,
evaluating Brazil’s universal health care system, developing research and
critical thinking skills, and engaging with healthcare partners and the
community through service learning. 

During each
trip, Rutgers–Camden’s nursing faculty want the students to understand how
people in these countries cope with disease with few resources.

“We want to
give them the tools to help them improve healthcare. Service learning
experiences are life changing for the students and for the people we help,”
Norris says.

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Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse
(856) 313-8020
E-mail: ejmoor@camden.rutgers.edu

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