February 2013, Volume 17, Number 1


A Helping Hand for Those in Need

A weeklong medical immersion program for Miami Dade College nursing students not only bettered the lives of people working in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic but also broadened the MDC participants’ knowledge and skills.

“This international educational experience enhanced the cultural competence of the students and provided health care for an underserved population,” said Dr. Marie Etienne, professor of nursing at MDC.

Wide-Ranging Skills

To accomplish this vital mission, MDC partnered with the Haitian American Professional Coalition (HAPC), a volunteer organization that links people in diverse occupations for community and humanitarian projects. The collaborative endeavor drew upon the unique skills of 15 MDC students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program, seven HAPC members, 15 medical interns from the Universidad Central del Este in San Pedro de Macorís, and five physicians from the Dominican Republic.

While MDC has been involved in the project since 2006, the November trip was the first time the College has taken registered nurses enrolled in the RN-BSN program.

“This experiential learning helped mold our students into global citizens, ensuring that they are fully prepared to provide relevant and appropriate patient care to citizens of different cultures,” Etienne said. “The students see different conditions they would not see here in the U.S. It’s an eye-opener and an experience you cannot get in the classroom.”

Helping Hundreds

The MDC students saw more than 1,000 migrant workers – mostly children and pregnant women – in the labor camps known as bateyes, where the health problems caused by cramped living conditions have led to a lack of basic sanitation and potable water.

Typically, the workers don’t see any health professionals “until we provide this service,” Etienne said. The students dealt with everything from infant mortality and malnutrition to hypertension, diabetes, tropical illnesses, blindness and malaria. They also provided important information about hygiene and preventive health care.

The College’s students also participated in the Dominican Republic project from afar by collecting more than $10,000 worth of goods, including clothing and school supplies for the children.

“During their reflection sessions, the students said that because of this trip, their lives have changed forever,” Etienne said. “I’m very proud of them. We are touching lives and improving health care around the world.”

— Staff Report

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