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CU Nursing students and instructors gather together in Ecuador.

Students

Students find new skills, life lessons during Ecuador clinical trip

Author Debra Melani | Publish Date October 28, 2019

Exquisite chocolate, stunning views and comprehensive reproductive health services colored a clinical experience in the lush lands of Ecuador, according to students who took part in the Global Health Nursing program last May. Combined with the intensive work, the cultural immersion made for a life-changing experience, they said.

After a slideshow illustrating bustling markets and towering cathedrals along with operating rooms and exam tables, the students and their instructor, Jennifer Dailey-Vail, DNP, shared their thoughts on the trip for other students who might apply for the 2020 clinical excursion next May. The deadline is Feb. 20.  

“If you want to get out of your comfort zone and really immerse yourself in a different culture, then this experience has your name written all over it,” said Lisa Najera of CU Nursing’s Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program.

Students find some differences but same passion

Najera said variations exist in the South American country’s clinical experience, including fewer supplies, less-advanced equipment and some unusual traditional practices (e.g., they use live guinea pigs for diagnostic exams).

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CU Nursing student provides basic phone
lessons to the locals.

“But what really struck me was that, at the core, we are really all the same,” she said. “We want to provide competent and compassionate care to our patient populations.”

The group of six students worked with Dailey-Vail in a rural clinic and an urban clinic, both focused on women’s health.

“Reproductive health there takes a social justice stance,” Dailey-Vail said. “It considers the whole woman,” with some clinics offering everything from bone scans to teeth cleanings. “Family planning is the root of what they do.”

Students: Trip transforms nurses into more-rounded providers

“Professionally, this trip allowed me to see how to do more with less and learn different techniques and options I can use with my patients,” said Najera. The 15-day, two-credit Ecuador program (NURS 5899) is open to only advanced practice graduate students with a 3.0 grade-point average or higher.

Sarah Field, a Family Nurse Practitioner student who said she chose her profession because of a desire to treat the underserved Hispanic population, said the Ecuador experience would translate into her work.

“Seeing firsthand the differences in their healthcare system and their different beliefs around healthcare really will help me in my future practice here in the United States,” Field said.

A highlight? Working and playing together, group says

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CU Nursing students and instructors enjoy
a little post-conference relaxation.

Adding some play amid the work, the program included a trip to Banos for some hot springs, bike rides, and “the best avocado toast we’ve ever had,” Dailey-Vail said.

By far the most common theme of the Lunch and Learn talk was how much the students enjoyed a clinical experience with each other, building both camaraderie and reflective learning during post-clinical conferences. And the bottom line appeared unanimous. “If you get the opportunity to go on a study-abroad trip, do it,” Najera said, “It will change your life in so many ways.”