Clinical practicum gives nursing students new perspective


BYU nursing students recently completed a course that gave them an opportunity to expand their horizons and serve others.

Every spring term, about 120 nursing students leave Provo to spend approximately three to four weeks tending to the needs of people from different cultures as part of the clinical practicum of advanced public and global health class.

Left to right, top row: Emily Plowman, Rachel Jardine, Kiley Richmond, Jannette Perry, Angela Walter, Michelle Smith, April McMurray. Bottom row: Casey Bunker, Brittany Miller, Anna Jones, Sarah Falk, Courtney Davies, Erica LArson, Mallory Lutes. This is the hospital on Tongatapu where we did much of our clinical work. (Photo courtesy Debbie Edmunds)
BYU nursing students stand in front of a hospital on Tongatapu, Tonga, where they did much of their clinical work. (Photo courtesy Debbie Edmunds)

This year, students had the option of completing the practicum in one of 10 areas, six of which were in other countries. The objective of this course is to teach the students culturally competent care and expose them to other healthcare systems and ways of thinking.

“Most students don’t realize how restricted their thinking is until they get abroad,” said Leslie Miles, the assistant teaching professor who accompanied the group of students that traveled to Russia.

To help develop their thinking, the 10 students who went to Russia were each paired with a Russian nursing student prior to their trip and got to know them via Skype. The students collaborated in these partnerships on subjects such as diabetes, pediatric and nursing care to organize a joint presentation comparing and contrasting methods in their different cultures.

Other countries offer different learning opportunities. Jannette Perry, a senior from Kirkland, Wash., went to Tonga for her practicum. There, students spent time working with patients in hospitals, giving free health screenings in community marketplaces and teaching about dental hygiene, diet and exercise in schools.

Jannette Perry takes blood pressures during one of the free clinics. (Photo courtesy Mallory Lutes)
Jannette Perry takes blood pressures during one of the free clinics. (Photo courtesy Mallory Lutes)

“Their resources are much less than ours, but … they make it work. It definitely made me grateful for the healthcare system we have here in the states,” Perry said. “It also made me really want to reach out and be a loving healthcare provider to anybody that I might come across. … You never really know what somebody’s experienced before or what they’ve been through.”

Karen de la Cruz, the assistant teaching professor for the group that visited Ghana, oversaw her students in going from house to house administering polio vaccinations and vitamin A to children under the age of 18 months. The trip wasn’t solely about service, however.

“The exchange is there,” she said. “We aren’t just here to give. We’re also taking something away with us. We’re taking a great deal of knowledge and new experiences and a new awareness that our Heavenly Father is in this world and loves every one of us.”

In addition to Russia, Tonga and Ghana, this year BYU sent nursing students to visit veterans in Washington, D.C., to the Navajo Nation in Arizona and to immigrant and at-risk populations in Utah as well as areas in Ecuador, India and Taiwan.

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