Patricia Stout, associate clinical professor, and eight students spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic in June, providing care to underserved communities in pop-up clinics, senior centers and patients’ homes.
Stout and the six juniors and two RN to BS students were part of a trip organized through Intercultural Nursing, Inc., a nonprofit whose mission is to provide an intercultural experience for nursing students, nurses, physicians, medical students and others. Clinics, outreach and home visits were organized by local community partner El Cercado Social Ministry.
The College has partnered with the organization for several years, Stout said, providing undergraduates with an immersive clinical experience that is unlike traditional study abroad programs. In fact, Stout said two of the students who participated said such an opportunity was why they chose URI for their nursing education. “So much learning occurred, they applied what they know and discovered what they don’t yet know,” Stout said.
Students receive credits in nursing’s community health course or independent study for their long days in the challenging clinical settings. The students worked closely with other RNs, nurse practitioner students and nurse practitioners. They treated sugar cane workers with skin issues or machete wounds, provided education on breast feeding and mosquito-borne illnesses and screened elderly patients for diabetes and high blood pressure. “We saw everyone from pregnant women and 2-year-olds to a man who was 98,” Stout said.
And they did this work while confronting poverty, malnutrition and lack of access to proper care. “Everybody should have this experience,” she said. “We all felt a sense of sadness over what we have in this country that they don’t have.”
Stout said the impact of those experiences stays with participants when they return home. “It does change your practice whether you are a student, nurse or nurse practitioner. You learn to be creative,” she said.
The College will return to the Dominican Republic in January, Stout said, and in the meantime is looking for ways to boost community health in lasting ways, such as training local students to perform blood pressure screenings and providing them with the equipment to do so after URI faculty and students depart.