Real-world experience is an important component of academic and professional development, as 10 University of West Georgia student nurses recently had the opportunity to experience in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The UWG Tanner Health System School of Nursing (THSSON) hosts a study abroad trip each year to give students the opportunity to utilize and practice their skills beyond the classroom.
At a clinic in San Jose, these students were able to provide some basic health screenings and treatments to community members who don’t typically have access to this type of care.
The students went door to door asking residents if they were in need of any medical attention and then invited them to the clinic.
With the assistance of a doctor, the nursing students were able to help diagnose, provide treatment and distribute medication to the patients.
Studying abroad is a unique opportunity that allows students to take what they are learning in the classroom and then apply that knowledge in a real-world setting while facing the challenges of being in a different culture with different technologies.
In the United States, nursing students have access to advanced equipment, but traveling outside of the U.S. requires them to provide services without the use of advanced technology to which they are accustomed, setting the stage for them to rely on their own skills and knowledge.
“Not being able to use our technology doesn’t happen often,” nursing student Meagan Stokes said. “Going to another country where we had to provide these skills manually and rely on our knowledge while giving back to the people in need was an amazing experience.”
This trip proved to not only be an enlightening academic experience but a transformative personal experience as well.
Stokes is grateful for the experience that this opportunity afforded her and explained that the best part of her experience was traveling around the village and offering services at the clinic to those in need.
“The most impactful part of the trip was getting to go to different parts of the villages and inviting people to come to the clinics,” Stokes said. “It brought a type of experience that you can’t find anywhere else.”
According to Dr. Kelly Dyar, assistant professor for nursing, the students also visited a shelter called the Posada de Belen – which translates to Bethlehem Shelter. As a home for unwed mothers who are described as being at social risk, many of the residents are young girls who have become pregnant and have been abandoned by their families.
“Here, the students cared for the babies to help the childcare workers while the mothers went to classes,” Dyar explained. “The mothers are able to stay at the shelter after their babies are born, receive care and attend technical school classes.”
Beyond having the opportunity to serve, the students also had some fun adventures, wrapping up their trip by driving across Costa Rica to Jaco Beach. Stopping along the way at a crocodile habitat, they also ziplined down a mountain before swimming in the Pacific Ocean and resting on the beach.