When it comes to hands-on learning, 11 University of Maine Nursing International students and their advisor will have the ultimate experience in March. Working in a real world setting in the country of Belize.
That means that while many UMaine students will be soaking up the sun during the March break, the nursing students will be on the job, and learning.
“The goal of the trip is to provide healthcare to a rural community in Belize, as well as  enhance our understanding of global health issues,” the student nursing group noted on their blog. “Our hope is that through this experience, we can become more culturally competent and knowledgeable nurses.”
The troupe of students represent all four levels of the nursing program and Nilda Cravens, a faculty member. However they all expressed an interest in honing their skills while also experiencing a new culture.
“I really want to go to Belize because I have always been interested in global healthcare,” said Ciara Gordon-Magro. “I also see it as great opportunity to put my nursing skills to the test. Being able to nurse at same time as travel all sounded good for me.”
Aaron Cyr, a UMaine senior who went on the Belize trip last year, wanted to go on the trip to build on the experience he gained in 2012. “I want to build my confidence and build on what I learned last year,” Cyr said.
Melissa McGary, another nursing student going on the Belize trip, said her biggest goal is to gain as much experience as possible in the United States and abroad and to improve her skills. “I think it will be a really humbling experience,” she said.
In preparation of the trip, the students have been researching the country and demographics of Belize, learning about the types of healthcare concerns in the country, and learning Spanish to better communicate with the populus.
Cultural competencies are important to producing well-rounded nurses, said advisor Nilda Cravens. That competency can only come with hands-on experience.
“I wanted to [go to Belize] to gain more cultural experience overall,” said nursing student Joshua Hughes. “I’m really interested in travel nursing and global healthcare is a passion of mine. So here I am ready to have awesome, life changing experience.”
And for students who are already experienced travellers, the trip will provide additional opportunities to learn and grow as nurses.
“Part of my passion for nursing stems from my travels and meeting different people from all over,” said Allie Collias. “I have always wanted to combine traveling and nursing so what better way than to go to Belize with the nursing group? I hope to learn valuable techniques and experiences to bring home and use in my future nursing career.”
The cost to go to Belize is estimated at $28,000 for the entire group. The students are fundraising to offset out-of-pocket costs. One ongoing fundraiser is a bottle collection at Burby and Bates at 7 Oak Street in Orono. Bottles and cans can be delivered to the redemption center with the distinction of “UMaine Nursing International.”