Nursing School Saves Lives at Home and Abroad For more than 10 years now, nursing students from MDC’s Medical Camupus have been actively leading the way in life-saving service learning work. Since 2006, under the direction of their professors, students have gone on humanitarian missions near and far, traveling to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and also, closer to home, to Immokalee and Belle Glade. There they have worked in partnership with the Haitian American Professionals Coalition and also the Haitian American Nurses Association of Florida, Inc. (HANA). The College’s Nursing Professor Dr. Marie O. Etienne deflects credit but has been the driving force behind the missions, from the first one in which they traveled to the Dominican Republic’s poverty-stricken bateyes, which are the settlements where sugar-cane workers live. “My ultimate goal is to inspire students to become social innovators and change-makers,” said Etienne. “I want my students to develop empathy for others.” Care for Those Who Never Had It Etienne said her students have worked hard, collecting donated supplies worth over $250,000. They have used those supplies to treat migrant workers and their families, many of whom had never previously received medical care. Etienne said she collaborated with faculty in MDC’s School of Health Sciences for some of these service learning trips abroad to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. “With these missions, our students have gained cultural competence,” Etienne said. “As they begin to care for underserved and unserved communities, our students have become more aware of the poverty that exists outside the U.S. “These are experiences I cannot give them in a classroom.” Helping Thousands On several of these outreach programs, MDC students have seen more than 1,000 patients in the Dominican Republic’s bateyes. In South Florida volunteer work closer to home, they have regularly helped 300 to 500 people during four-day missions to Immokalee and Belle Glade. All this experience enables the students to more quickly recognize certain medical conditions using their critical-thinking skills. For more than a decade, MDC nursing students have helped people in Immokalee and Belle Glade in Florida, and abroad in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. An exemplary case of selfless service learning is Jean Beaubrum, an RN-BSN student who spent his own money to buy two extra blood glucose machines and 200 strips when he realized supplies were running out while the MDC students were working in Immokalee last October. In the Nick of Time “We had one patient with a blood-sugar level of 642 who would have died or fallen into a coma had we not been there to help,” Etienne said. Emergency services immediately took the patient to the hospital in Lehigh County. “Our students have diagnosed diabetes and cancer in patients who who have never been to a doctor before and were not aware of their conditions,” Etienne said. Best of all, this nursing mission work is both life-sustaining and a “sustainable project,” in that MDC plans to keep it going strong, well into the College’s second “Decade of Excellence.” – WV
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