These nurses have a serious commute

Ever travel more than 5,000 miles for a class? Students in UIndy’s “Ecuadorian Service Learning” course traveled to the equator and back on their Spring Term trip.

Twenty-two students, mostly student nurses, flew to Quito, Ecuador (the country gets its name from the equator, which runs through it), in May, teaming with the One Mission Society for a three-week medical mission course. Professor Becca Cartledge, one of five returnees, coordinated and instructed the course for the fourth consecutive year. The focus of the trip was to pair with a local church to set up clinics wherein patients could receive triage (determining who needs what medical attention and in what order) and spiritual counseling.

Hands-on practice

Student nurses had ample opportunity to practice diagnostic skills at the clinic, where patients signed in and stated their medical concerns for triage. After vital signs were taken, the  patients received spiritual counseling while waiting to to see the doctor. Each nursing student had the opportunity to sit in with the doctor during the visit. Once the patients had their doctor visit, they received any medications needed from the clinic’s pharmacy. In conjunction with a licensed pharmacist, the program’s nursing students ran the pharmacy, dispensing the drugs and vitamins to patients. The students were able to practice what they’d learned in the classroom and serve the community at the same time.

As Professor Cartledge puts it, “UIndy’s ‘Education for Service’ motto is really being put to work!”

“The pharmacy is run fully by nursing students,” returning student Kellie Cross says, “with the oversight of professionals to make sure they do everything right. We had the opportunity to see the medications and determine whether they’re compatible with the patient’s medical plan, so we actually practiced the pharmacology role of nursing.”

How do you say . . .

Spanish is the dominant language in Quito, so there were communication challenges for the English-speaking caregivers. And the dynamics of working through an interpreter provided a unique challenge.

“We got to practice a lot of skills that we don’t usually have the opportunity to use in the United States,” Kellie says. “A lot of the students had a preview last year of what it’s like to speak through a translator. It’s hard when you want to speak directly to your patient but you can’t because they’re not going to understand you. You have to look at your patient as if you’re speaking to them, when you’re really speaking to the translator and the translator is speaking to the patient. It’s a very triangular relationship, when it’s supposed to be linear. But if you do have Spanish-speaking skills, what better place to put them to use than along with your nursing skills!”

Not a nurse? OK

Professor Cartledge has observed how each individual mission participant flourishes and grows throughout the program. The cultural immersion makes for an exciting learning experience.

As with most Spring Term travel courses at UIndy, Ecuadorian Service Learning is open to all students. There are no prerequisites, and in previous years students from diverse majors, such as education and psychology, have signed on. Typically non-nursing majors are paired with majors, and they work together in the triage area.

“It doesn’t matter what your degree or major is,” Professor Cartledge insists. “There’s a place for everyone.”

—Lauren Alayza ’14