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Kenya experience provides global view to NDSU nursing students


Fifteen NDSU nursing students traveled 8,216 miles from Fargo to further build their nursing skills in a global setting during a spring semester practicum in Kenya. They observed ER, theatre (operating room), triage, community health and much more. 

For Brianna Bertsch, the trip created lifelong memories. She receives her nursing pin at ceremonies on Friday, May 13, and graduates on Saturday, May 14 with her pre-licensure bachelor’s of science in nursing degree from NDSU. 

“I chose to go to Kenya because I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime,” said Bertsch. “In nursing school, we learn the importance of being culturally competent of the patients we care for and this experience allowed me to practice cultural competence and awareness first hand.” 

The Shoreview, Minnesota native found the nursing experience in Kenya to be invaluable. 

“I witnessed the strength and resilience of the Kenyan people. I stayed with a woman while she labored for 14 hours—unmedicated. In Kenya, there is no option for pain medication when giving birth. Suffering is believed as a part of life,” said Bertsch. “The patient dilated to 9 cm only to find out she had to undergo a cesarean section. The mother was thankful that I stayed with her throughout her laboring process and allowed me to name her baby boy. Welcome to the world baby Liam!” 

Bertsch plans on working in the Fargo-Moorhead area after graduation. She wasn’t the only student who made an impact while working with a mother about to give birth in Kenya. Another student who assisted at a maternal child clinic had a baby named after her, as baby Lisa was welcomed into the world. 

The students had multiple nursing experiences, noted in their blog entries. 

“The whole group went to a medical camp where we helped with triage, pharmacy, HIV testing, eye exams, dental exams, health promotion, and pad distribution.” 

Students also learned from other experiences, as noted in their blog. “Some students…went on a palliative care outreach, where they visited patients in the community with terminal illnesses.” 

Other experiences were reported by students. “Hilary went to the NICU with Candy and saw a baby with a heart block, and cared for a patient with brucellosis on the medical floor. Haley spent time in the ER where she got to give some shots and help triage patients. Sarah watched a cesarean section with twins. Amanda spent time in the medical unit where she cared for a patient with AIDS, gave some tetanus vaccinations and wrapped a sprained ankle.” 

Rochester, Minnesota native Emily Kluck, who receives her nursing pin on May 13 and her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from NDSU on May 14, felt called to provide healing in a place where there are few resources and opportunities. 

“There was a single mother who had been sick for over a year, and a group of nursing students worked together with a doctor to diagnose her with tuberculosis and start appropriate treatment,” said Kluck. “The woman didn't have many resources, and she was so grateful that we took the time to care for her and to help her regain health so she could nurture her children. This moment was a reminder that small actions can truly make a positive difference in someone's life.” 

Kluck will be working as an oncology and palliative care nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth, Minnesota after graduation.

Molly Secor-Turner, associate professor of public health at NDSU, serves as the Kenya practicum advisor. She founded the group For the Good Period, providing health education to girls in Kenya, and opportunities for nursing students at NDSU to learn about global missions.  

In addition to nursing experience, students had opportunities to sample Kenyan food and other aspects of the country. They took their picture at the equator, danced with traditional Masai warriors and went on a safari. 

“On Monday morning we flew on small 15-passenger planes to Masai Mara. It was a turbulent ride that ended on a dirt runway with elephants and giraffes alongside the runway,” the group wrote on their blog. 

It was the experience of a lifetime for the 11 pre-licensure bachelor’s of science in nursing students and four licensed practical nurse to bachelor’s of science in nursing students. There were impactful moments and lighter ones as well. 

For example, babies weren’t the only ones named for the NDSU nursing students while in Kenya. The group also reported that it had two cows named after them—“North” and “Dakota.”

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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