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News Release

Nursing students spend break gaining clinical experience in Central America

Group to tell of experience on February 5th

(Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)— A group of nursing students and faculty recently returned from a health care mission trip at the Moravian Clinics in Ahuas, Honduras, Central America. St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing at Moravian College sponsored the delegation which spent their winter break gaining valuable clinical experience. The group will present a special presentation and discuss their experiences on Wednesday, February 5, at 6 p.m. in the Synder Room of the Haupert Union Building.

The group of students is comprised of Allen Smith, R.N. (Allentown, PA), Lauren Spencer (Manahawkin, NJ), Jennifer Wagner (Riegelsville, PA), and Sara Walkiewicz (Bethlehem, PA). All four are members of the class of 2003, which will be the first graduating class from the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing at Moravian College.

The purpose of the trip was to experience life and health care in a developing country, to examine the role of the mission nurse, and to expand cultural understanding. This Honduran clinical practice experience was part of a fall term nursing course entitled “Nursing of Populations at High Risk for Health Problems” taught by Dr. Janet A. Sipple. Throughout the fall term, students engaged in intensive study of the Spanish language and customs, international issues in health care, and tropical disease management. Each student prepared a health education program and professional poster to utilize in the clinics. Student topics ranged from child/adult dental self-care to the management of emergency airway blockage in infants/small children.

Marianne Adam, assistant professor and a nurse practitioner, accompanied the students. The group departed from the Lehigh Valley on December 26 in a snow storm and returned January 12. Students working with St. Luke's Hospital gathered a large volume of medical supplies, clothes, and medications to take to the site. At the Ahuas Clinics, students engaged in assessment of patients and village citizens, assisted in births and surgery, managed the daily care of patients, and promoted health by teaching.

Doctors Gerard Goff and Novelle Rudy, who direct medical care at the Ahuas Clinics, hosted the group. The students agreed that these two doctors were exceptional human beings. “Dr. Rudy and Dr. Goff were so kind and accommodating to helping us gain valuable experience in their hospital. They would give you the shirt off their backs if they could,” said Lauren Spencer ‘03. Sara Walkiewicz ‘03 agreed, saying that the doctors “provided excellent care to their patients and were excellent examples of selfless professionals. They truly do what they love and do it well.”

The students did not really know what to expect when they reached Honduras. All that they knew was that it would be different than the United States. Jennifer Wagner ‘03 said, “When I first arrived, it was definitely a culture shock, and it amazed me how people could live in such conditions with such little resources. However, after living in the culture for almost two weeks, I discovered that the living environment was quite comfortable. The people were friendly; they made us feel welcomed, and admired us for helping them at the mission site. I realized that my initial reaction ceased after a few days of actually living in the village. Everything that seemed so foreign upon my arrival seemed comfortable as I departed,” Wagner said.

All of the student participants on this trip are sure that they will never forget their experiences. One particular situation stands out for both Spencer and Walkiewicz. The two cared for a premature baby who eventually passed away after only five hours of life. Walkiewicz commented that, “The most challenging situation that I faced was caring for a baby who was born prematurely on an airplane, who if born in the United States would have lived.” Spencer added, “We prayed with her [the mother] and tried to comfort her in every possible way. It was really difficult to have such a helpless feeling, knowing we couldn't do anything. But the comfort and support given to the mother and her family far surpasses much of the spiritual comfort and care provided by doctors and nurses practicing in our country.” When the mother left the next day to return to her village, she said, “Thank you, you are angels of God.”

The nursing course has been planned and organized for the past four years with the Moravian World Mission Board through Hampton Morgan. Special funding of this project was received from Central Moravian Church, St. Luke's Hospital, Moravian College, and the area Rotary Clubs of Bethlehem's Morning Star Club, Allentown's Liberty Club, and Nazareth. Many individuals in the Lehigh Valley worked to assist the group with preparation and the gathering of resource materials.

The next group of students to the Ahuas site is scheduled for December '03. Walkiewicz highly encourages participation on this trip, “I recommend this opportunity or a similar program to everyone. It makes you appreciate life and what you have while at the same time reaching out to those in need. It's a life-changing event that will be never leave me.”

The group will present their experience to the College community and the public on February 5 at the College. For further information, contact the College School of Nursing at (610) 861-1607.