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Giving Back Beyond Our Borders

December 2013

For student nurses, the journey to delivering quality care is rarely contained within the classroom. For some students at Chamberlain College of Nursing, that journey even expands beyond geographical borders. Through an extracurricular program called the International Nursing Service Project, nursing students at Chamberlain have several opportunities each year to take their education abroad, providing care to diverse communities and further honing their skills for the future.

For the past 18 years, Susan Fletcher, Ed.D., MSN, BSN, professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing in St. Louis, Mo., has led students to other countries for service projects for one to three weeks at a time. According to Dr. Fletcher, a key goal for those students is to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures and economic systems, and what those differences mean for patients.

“Years before I began these trips, I wrote a course on cultural diversity for junior level students,” said Dr. Fletcher. “Students were required to visit different cultural sites and discuss their findings after returning. With these assignments I was able to witness such enlightenment in my students that I knew we had to do more to increase cultural understanding.”

In the process of becoming more worldly and aware, student nurses also get the chance to make a real difference in the communities they visit.

“There are so many stories I could share about my students going above and beyond to help patients on these trips over the years,” said Dr. Fletcher. On one trip in particular, she recalled the generosity of her students with pride in her voice.

On a recent trip to Kenya, Dr. Fletcher led her students on home visits, during which the group encountered a man who had been hit by a truck the year before and fractured his femur. He was married and had a young child, and 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 family.

The students were touched by the man’s story, ultimately deciding that they wanted to do something to help him pay for surgery. As they had limited funding to provide care for the community, one student decided to turn to her friends back in the U.S.

“I kept thinking in my head – how can we not help him?” said Sarah Turner, a current senior at Chamberlain College of Nursing in Phoenix, Ariz., and one of the student nurses on the trip.

Turner 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. “After that, all I had to do was figure out how to get the money from the bank into their hands,” she said.

“The response was incredible!” said Dr. Fletcher. “With Sarah’s idea and the help of an online network, we managed to pay for the man’s surgery. All of this extraordinary work happened in May, and when I returned to Kenya in September, that same man was smiling, standing at the gate to his community to welcome us. He invited us back to his house to introduce us to his wife and daughter, and they were all so grateful for what we had done. This was such a rewarding moment.”

As the year comes to a close, Dr. Fletcher is looking ahead to 2014 and all of the upcoming trips she has planned for her students. The project will take future nurses to Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Brazil, India, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines next year, where student nurses will have a wide variety of different assignments and unique experiences giving back to local communities.

To learn more about the International Nursing Service Project, visit www.chamberlain.edu.

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