Tewksbury Nursing Student Headed to Ghana
UMass-Lowell's Kimberly Cook to participate in Nursing Students Without Borders program.
Winter break for most college students includes a warm vacation, catching up with friends, maybe taking a class for a few quick credits. But for 10 nursing students from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, "break" will be spent working long hours in Ghana, Africa.
Members of Nursing Students Without Borders will take their third trip to the impoverished area Jan. 2-19. Faculty advisor Clinical Assistant Professor Valerie King will be supervising the group of seniors and looks forward to watching their experience.
"I have seen such a transformation in the nursing students," King said. "They go from nervous traveler in a strange country to a confident and giving nurse who is much more prepared to meet the health care challenges of the USA and beyond."
The students, still nervous for the trip, have come to nursing from many different backgrounds. Some, like Kimberly Cook of Tewksbury and Erica Lavoie of Peabody, have family members in the field. Others have different motivations for their work choices.
"I hope we make a sustainable impact," said Cook, "and they keep using the information and education we bring."
The students will bring this enthusiasm for their work along with 500 pounds of supplies and other items to Ghana where they will work with clinics and orphanages to provide medical care.
Also, the students will be presenting lectures and research at the second annual National Nurse's Conference in Accra and Ho, Ghana. Their research has mostly been focused on educating people about pediatric nutrition and malaria prevention.
"We've been doing lots of research on the country," said Lavoie. "The statistics alone blow you away, and we don't even understand the truth. Everything will be much more intense than we can even expect."
The students are not expecting their trip to be easy. Already, raising money for travel, gathering donated items, and getting the various required shots has been time consuming. But they're all looking forward to the opportunity.
"After I lost my best friend to cancer in high school, it became my first choice for a career," said Kelly Britton of Chelmsford. "Seeing how the nurses made a difference for everyone- they don't just care for the patient, they care for everyone who comes with the patient."
"It will help us to understand how most of the world lives," said Jason Hebert of North Reading. "Also, we'll get to see how different life is there from what we have here."
The students have been preparing for the trip since March, aiming to raise $3,000 each and completing an extensive assessment on the Ghana community they will be visiting. Their findings will be used to implement a community-based healthcare intervention. King, who has helped students through the research and implementation process before, knows that the Ghanan people will appreciate all of their hard work.
"Despite living with such hardship," King said of the people in Ghana, "they are so genuine in their joy at welcoming American students to their communities."
The students are all excited to participate in their first volunteer nursing trip and are hoping to continue participating in other areas of the world.
"My mother does a volunteer nursing trip to El Salvador where they perform eye surgery most years," said Lavoie. "When this similar opportunity came up my mom was very supportive. I'd like to join her on a volunteer nursing trip someday."
With this trip and just a semester or two between them and a challenging career in nursing, the students know where their work will take them. Britton is hoping to focus on pediatric oncology. Hebert and Lavoie are interested in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Cook has heard many stories from her mother and grandmother, both nurses, and is leaning toward the emergency room for the "fast-paced" work.
But, the only thing that is certain now, is their excitement for the future and the hard work ahead of them.
"We haven't even started working as nurses yet," said Britton. "But hopefully this and other trips will open our eyes to what's out there and where we can go with nursing."