NDSU nursing students gain experience through global nursing practicum in Brazil, serving remote communities along the Amazon River

Group of NDSU Nursing students posing in front of a poster showing the Go Bison horns-up sign with their hands.

“We’ve returned with a deeper understanding of global health issues, a greater appreciation for different cultures, and a renewed passion for nursing. How we view healthcare, teamwork, and community engagement has changed forever,” said one NDSU nursing student upon return from 16 days traveling the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers to provide medical care.

The NDSU School of Nursing provides a variety of U.S. and global nursing practicum experiences for students in its programs, with all of them uniquely preparing future nurses to be practice ready when they graduate.

A group of students in NDSU’s nursing program recently traveled to Amazonas, Brazil for their global nursing practicum.

Photo of NDSU nursing students laying in hammocks on a boat in Amazonas, Brazil where they slept each night for 16 days.

The group of 24 students and faculty members lived on a boat navigating the Amazon, stopping at remote villages to provide medical care and education to communities with limited access to healthcare. They slept in hammocks on the boat, trekked into remote areas carrying their own medical equipment, along with donated supplies and medication to care for patients.

Prior to the trip, students raised $7,300 for medical supplies, water purification systems for patients, and other items to use in their clinics. The group included students pursuing their bachelor’s of science degree and doctor of nursing practice degree at NDSU.

Nursing students Abby and Rylan recall their observations about one of many clinics they conducted. “Several of us provided emotional support and counseling with the amazing help from our interpreters. The people we had the privilege of seeing share similar needs, wants, and heartache as we do,” they noted in the students’ recap of the practicum on social media.

Photo of NDSU Nursing student cradling and smiling at a baby she is holding in Amazona, Brazil.

They also learned why providing care in remote areas is crucial. “One man explained that to get to the city would take 10 hours by boat or 80 hours by bus,” explained students. “We learned that teamwork and communication were vital. This allowed us to spend more time with the people in the community and provide more thorough education and build stronger connections,” said Abby and Rylan in their online posts about the global nursing practicum.

Photo of NDSU student with 3 small children who are fascinated with penlight used in exams in village clinic in Amazonas, Brazil.

In one clinic, students saw approximately 85 patients, caring for surgical wounds, infections, removing growths and providing families with water filters for access to clean drinking water. They often had long lines of patients waiting to see them and set up clinics in 100-degree heat and torrential downpours. Groups also made home visits, set broken bones, debrided wounds and provided health education.

By the end of the global practicum, the group had seen nearly 1,000 patients.

Other takeaways from the practicum include the importance of self-care. “This trip has been a challenge for us all both mentally and physically. We learned that taking time for yourself allows you to provide better care to others,” said students in their practicum summary.

The global practicum was led by Dr. Abigail Brunsvold and Dr. Adam Hohman in the NDSU School of Nursing, along with Jolie Sester, another global medical outreach professional.  “I have taken students to Belize, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Haiti, and Brazil. Every group and every destination is unique and impactful,” said Brunsvold.

Photo of long outdoor metal structure with roof and chairs where NDSU Nursing students are seeing patients with medical needs.

“This global health experience has allowed us to expand our transcultural nursing skills, ability to adapt to change, critical thinking skills, and ultimately assist us in becoming a well-rounded registered nurse,” said students Amanda and Mikayla.

For more information about NDSU’s on campus and online nursing programs, visit https://www.ndsu.edu/nursing

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