Nursing Beyond the Border

Riley Smith '20 English and anthropology
Nursing students in Peru as part of a population health class

Widener nursing students crossed global borders for a hands-on, holistic education to deepen their knowledge of population health and international care-giving. Assistant Professor Karen May embarked on a one-week cultural exploration trip to Peru this August with seven students enrolled in the population health class. The trip was the clinical component to the class, and gave students the opportunity to engage in pediatrics, obstetrics, or medicine in an international setting. 

“We worked in a clinic there; it was really interesting because it gave students a chance to see what rural health looks like,” said May. 

The students gained first-hand exposure to the unique blend of traditional medicine and western medicine that creates the “up and coming” Peruvian health system. They observed how Peruvian doctors take a culturally specific approach with their patients.

“I’ve learned so much," said senior nursing student Alyssa Muldoon. “We had a workshop on traditional medicine because that’s something they practice in Peru."

I think that I am more open to traditional medicine and more open to viewing the world how they view it. -Alyssa Muldoon '20

“In Peru, people are very open,” said May. “They’ll tell their doctor ‘I saw the healer and they told me to be A, B, and C.' Here in the states, people will try things at home and won’t tell their doctors… The doctor told us, there are cases where the healers have done a better job.” 

Nursing students abroad in a clinic in Peru
Senior nursing student Alyssa Muldoon (right) spent a week in Peru with classmates to gain a diverse and international perspective on community health.

Students not only participated in the local health clinic but also visited a local grade school, which gave them an opportunity to interact with a wide range of community members. While visiting the school, the nursing students were able to teach healthy hygiene habits including hand washing and dental care. 

To enhance the immersion experience into the Peruvian culture, the students stayed in the village of Villas De Maras, the same community they were learning from. Living in the village allowed for different cultural experiences such as local traditions and celebrations.

“The workers showed us different traditions,” said Muldoon. “They had their version of a barbecue. They made it work from hot rocks and then buried the food. They also had a festival which was really cool; it was like a flea market almost, and there was also dancing.” 

By taking this nursing clinical abroad, the students gained a better understanding of how an environment influences a community’s health.

“Peru’s environmental exposures are different,” May said. “It gave you a really different prospective on how people stay healthy."

"They do amazing in Peru," May added. "I think that it was helpful in getting students to see that there are multiple ways to have people be healthy.”

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