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WCU Stories

Nursing students travel to Honduras, volunteer with Shoulder to Shoulder organization

nursing students in Honduras

Left to Right: Shawn Taylor (Wingate School of Pharmacy, faculty), Ashlyn Foskey (Wingate School of Pharmacy, PharmD student), Jaclyn Bandell (WCU School of Nursing, faculty), Ky'leena Young (WCU School of Nursing, DNP- FNP student).

By Julia Duvall

Last year, Jaclyn Bandell, director of Western Carolina University’s family nurse practitioner program, volunteered with Shoulder to Shoulder, Inc., spending a week at the organization’s clinic in Southern Intibucá, Honduras.

“Jaclyn came back and shared with me the amazing experience she had volunteering and talked about taking her FNP students,” said Kae Livsey, professor in WCU’s School of Nursing. “When I was in Wilmington, I took undergraduate students on volunteer trips so I thought it would be a great opportunity for our undergraduate nursing students at WCU as well.”

In February of this year, Livsey, Bandell, two undergraduate and three DNP-FNP students spent a week in Honduras participating in the immersive clinical and cultural learning experience as part of a 24-member brigade.

“Students collaborated with an interprofessional team of public health professionals, pharmacists, medical residents and physicians to provide direct patient care for acute and chronic health conditions within the community,” Bandell said. “Students engaged with the community members at the clinic, through home visits for medical care and community surveys, and by providing well-child checks and dental varnish and education at the local school.”

The students learned about cultural humility, social determinants of health and providing quality, compassionate health care in under-resourced settings.

“The Honduras trip was amazing and offered a ton of insight into how health care is in rural communities in foreign countries” said Cody Walker, a senior from Richmond Hill, Georgia. “I think it was a valuable experience and I really look forward to going back at some point in my life.”

For the past 30 years, Shoulder to Shoulder has operated clinical and other humanitarian services in Southern Intibucá.

"The key takeaway from the trip was to be more mindful regarding patients and to consider people’s living situations, availability of medication and ability to adhere to medications,” said Ky’leena Young of Hendersonville, a second-year DNP-FNP student. “I learned to just be cautious and try to dive deeper into a person’s life to determine if adherence could be possible. During the trip, I found myself frequently wanting to prescribe medications that weren’t available or couldn’t be used due to cost or usage requirements. I would like to ask my patients more often which treatment option would be easier for them in their lives, if possible.”

In addition to working in the clinic, students got to network with other health care practitioners in various disciplines and levels of experience.

“The golden nugget from this trip was the interprofessional collaboration and learning that happened,” Livsey said. “This was a large brigade and we had faculty and students from Wingate’s pharmacy program, their public health students and faculty as well as physicians. Sitting at dinner was a great time for our students to ask questions about the different careers. It was such a wonderful opportunity.”

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