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LU nursing students gain knowledge through service learning in the Dominican Republic

Seven nursing students and two faculty members traveled to San Jose de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic on Lamar University’s first service learning study abroad trip.
Dominican Republic Nursing Trip
Jennifer Walls, Kendra Bean, Sherry Banditrat
Amorette Fernandez (student leader)
Kristol Perez, Claudio Olivares (in-country guide)
Dr. Cindy Pipkins, Dr. Stacey Knight (lead faculty)
Taylor Allen, Madison Corkran

Nursing students have traveled abroad previously but prior trips were comparative studies, where students studied the differences between American healthcare and that of the countries they were visiting. The most recent trip, May 19-26, was the first trip LU has sponsored where students worked in the field testing and diagnosing patients.

“Students got to do home health visits, loaded their gear in backpacks, took a bus and checked patients for different health problems including diabetes, hypertension and other health issues,” said Stacey Knight, assistant professor and articulation coordinator who arranged the trip and was one of the faculty members to travel with the students.

In addition to making home health calls in the most rural areas of the mountainous region of Rancho Arribe, the second-and third-year nursing students provided health screenings at a clinic.

“We set up rural clinics and had the people come to us,” said Knight. “The students were wide-eyed but two or three days of being immersed in it, they were gung ho.”

 Knight said the adventure afforded the students an opportunity to see nursing from a very different perspective. “It’s not like healthcare here, where you can go to any clinic or get an appointment and see a physician,” said Knight. “They don’t have all the tools they need. They can’t refer them to all of these different specialists. They have to learn to be very autonomous in the healthcare they have.”

The nursing students did diagnose several of the patients they saw with hypertension and high sugar levels, which was rewarding, according to Knight. They reported their findings to a Dominican Republic physician group they partnered with who will follow up and treat the patients.

“The amount of knowledge gained from this trip expanded on the textbook information that has been given to me during my time in the nursing program. I feel grateful to be able to be part of such an impactful trip,” said Madison Cochran, a senior nursing student from Lumberton. “Not only were we taught so many aspects of their healthcare, but we were able to be hands-on in local communities.”

Further beneficial was the travel to a completely different culture and environment. “The students got to see how people adapt in an environment where they don’t have equipment or medications and in a community that typically doesn’t trust healthcare,” said Knight.

However, the community members welcomed the nursing students and invited them into their homes.

"The trip to the Dominican Republic opened my eyes so much. It was truly a life changing experience that I will never forget,” said Cochran. “It was such an honor to be accepted by the people with such open arms as they allowed us to be immersed in their culture and healthcare system.”

Knight says next year nursing students will have the opportunity to travel to The Netherlands for a comparative study of The Netherlands healthcare; however, she hopes to offer a service learning trip the following year and for subsequent years alternate between the two types of trips – comparative study and service learning.