Posted by Stephanie Kollm on June 11, 2014
For Associate Professor of Nursing Deann Edgers, May Term is a unique opportunity to bring classroom learning to life, and to inspire compassionate and community-focused nurses. “Experiential learning brings flesh and blood to table,” she said, “I can teach about the poverty and the disparities in a developing country. I can even show pictures. But until I hold a child who is malnourished, provide clean water to a home that has none, put in a cement floor to stop the rain from washing through a home every day, I cannot truly absorb the impact or significance of those things.”
To help her students gain those valuable experiences, Edgers led a group of AU nursing students to Tegucigalpa, Honduras during the 2014 May Term session, where the students served in a medical brigade, visited schools and long-term care facilities, and immersed themselves in Honduran culture.
Senior nursing major Leigh Anderson describes the experience with one word: “shock.” “We are so blessed to live in a country with amenities that far out number the population,” she said. “In Honduras, citizens wait days, and travel miles by bus or on foot, to get even half the medical attention we have come to expect. Honduran doctors and hospital administrators alike kept saying the same thing to us, ‘It’s not that we don’t have the education and healthcare professionals. We lack the resources and funds!'”
For Anderson, seeing that disparity in health care access firsthand was life-changing. She met an 80-year-old woman who had traveled for four days to have a prescription filled, only to learn that the hospital had no insulin to give. She helped provide education to children living at a trash dump, whose only means of nourishment came from what she could collect from the dump. She washed hair and painted nails of children with disabilities.
“It was both inspiring and sad to witness how Hondurans and NGOs work together to care for the people,” Anderson reflected, “I have so many professors to thank for broadening my horizons while at AU, but seeing the things we read and learn about in the classroom just makes that knowledge stick! The experience is so much richer than what any instructor can teach or explain to you.”
Now, Anderson approaches her future career in nursing with a new perspective. “When I first decided to go to nursing school, my initial goal was to find something that would support me and my family,” she said, “Now, my take on that goal is a lot broader. My career needs to be about helping others; that’s where I’ll find the most personal success.”
“With this travel-study experience, we aim to help students develop a level of cultural humility, an appreciation for other cultures and beliefs,” said Edgers, “Until students experience what it feels like to be in a situation where they cannot speak the language but must communicate in order to receive basic needs, they cannot fully appreciate what their patients who do not speak English experience. Serving at the very core of human need—putting in a cement floor, providing vitamins, clean water, teaching basic newborn care—these are the human experiences that shape and change lives. In the U.S. we are so blessed, but those those blessings can sometimes be blinders preventing us from truly understanding the needs of others.”
To learn more about this and other May Term travel-study opportunities, visit aurora.edu/mayterm.