School of Nursing professor accompanies students to Africa
Janeatte Bendezu (left) and Dolores Martin work in the main clinic in Kanye, Botswana.
Dolores Wright, DNS, RN, associate professor, School of Nursing, has had a love of Africa since she spent seven years living there. When she became the lead teacher for the community health course at Loma Linda University School of Nursing, she knew that she wanted to create an opportunity for her students to get clinical experience in an international setting. Her dream eventually turned into reality with an opportunity for School of Nursing students to spend a month in Africa.
Dr. Wright and a group of students recently returned from a second annual trip to Africa for nursing work. The trip took place during the month of July and included students from the community/public health nursing class as well as some seniors doing practicum work.
“I want these trips to Africa to show students a rural clinical setting and provide them with a different clinical experience,” she says.
Dr. Wright’s goal is to get students to understand nursing in connection with a population. “This experience is designed to teach students not to look at the individual, or even at a family group, but at the whole population,” she says.
A second goal of hers is to inspire nurses to mission service. Since most countries produce their own nurses, the intense need for missionary nurses has been reduced. Although outside nurses are still needed for teaching, research, and administration, they are not as greatly needed for basic clinical nursing.
“Even if basic nursing care is not often missionary work, I want these trips to inspire students to service at home, too, not just overseas,” she adds.
According to Dr. Wright, there are many opportunities to do voluntary nursing service in refugee camps and even during natural disasters.
The third goal of Dr. Wright’s trips to Africa is to provide students with an opportunity to have an intensive cultural experience in all aspects. Schools of nursing and other areas of health care professions are picking up on the need to understand other cultures. African culture surrounds the group during their stay from food to driving on the wrong side of the road to social interaction. Students live with LLU faculty members in the same building and have to deal with the water shortages and electrical outages together. But, Dr. Wright says, students get into the swing of things and learn to say “Oh well, that’s Africa.”
While Dr. Wright was planning an opportunity for international nursing, her first task was to pick the right country. The nursing program in Indonesia sends groups of students into a community to come up with a project to help that community. Dr. Wright’s original idea was to send LLU students along with the Indonesian students because those students speak the language. But after the September 11 attacks, Indonesia was no longer an option because the risks were too high. The best choice would be a low-risk country with a stable political situation, and with a Seventh-day Adventist nursing program.
Since Dr. Wright had lived there, Africa came to mind. She chose Botswana because its Adventist hospital had experience with visiting students since they had previously hosted some non-Adventist students from Europe. The hospital was thrilled at the idea of some Seventh-day Adventist students coming, especially ones from Loma Linda University.
Botswana was also a good location because students got to participate in a wide range of clinical work. One volunteer took the students around to work with different HIV/AIDS situations. One was a support group for HIV-positive women. Another was a day care for children, most of whom were orphans.
Loma Linda University students described their experience in Africa as life changing. Since doctors are not usually available, nurses do everything in places like Africa. Nurses prescribe medicine and act as nurse practitioner and doctor.
“One student told me that ‘particularly now with the nursing shortage, I knew nursing was important, but I never knew how vital is really is,’” says Dr. Wright. “What it all comes down to is that if there isn’t a nurse, there isn’t health care.”