Medical missions as a student nurse

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    I have recently started my pediatrics rotation and have fallen in love. We had someone come talk to us earlier in the week about Medical Missions, and I am very interested. I was wondering if anyone went on a medical mission while still in nursing school and which organization they went through. (It seems to me that most missions you need to have a license to participate.) Also when they went, what type of nursing skills did they use, and was it beneficial to their education? I have assumed that if I can adapt my skills to provide adequate patient care in an under-developed country it would help me with prioritizing, organization, communication...when I graduate and work in a hospital. Any and all feedback is appreciated!!! Thanks so much!
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    You don't have a lot of nursing skills right now. The missions want people who do so they don't have to waste very valuable time getting you up to speed.

    You'll be out of school and licensed soon. With luck you'll get a job someplace that will give you a sabbatical now and then to go to the mission. Patience.
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    I haven't done one yet, but I am headed to Tanzania this summer! We're going through the organization ISL. Our team is specifically nursing students from our program, but they do allow solo students/practitioners to join other teams.

    It's a 14 day trip (unless you sign up for an extra excursion...I'll be there an extra week climbing Mt Kilimanjaro) and it's mostly spent setting up and helping run free clinics and going to medical conferences on local issues (in this area, malaria and HIV in particular.). And also learning the language. There are also day trips to local sites and markets.

    As far as skills go, you should have the basics down fairly well by the end of the first year. You won't be life lighting people...you'll be giving injections and taking blood and things like that. It's sort of like being a nurse tech, but in another country.

    Like I said, I haven't been yet, but everyone I know who's gone absolutely loved it.
    Last edit by Stephalump on Feb 8, '13
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    Quote from GrnTea
    You don't have a lot of nursing skills right now. The missions want people who do so they don't have to waste very valuable time getting you up to speed.

    You'll be out of school and licensed soon. With luck you'll get a job someplace that will give you a sabbatical now and then to go to the mission. Patience.
    I disagree. You do have nursing skills now. You may not be as fast as some others but the mission agency obviously welcomes nursing students or they never would have come and talked to you. I went on a medical mission trip two years before I started nursing school and thought that I wouldn't be able to do anything! I was able to do a lot! I talked to the patients, I was able to wrap strains and sprains, I helped the nurses and doctors with all sorts of things! Don't feel like you won't be a help...you will be!
    Stephalump likes this.
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    I think it depends on the organization you volunteer with. I have been to Panama and Honduras on medical trips through a local chapter of Global Medical Brigades. The student run group fundraises and gets medications donated and travels with docs,nurses, and NPs to these countries where you travel to rural communities and set up mobile clinics at places like schools or churches. I wasn't in nursing school when I went on these trips but I already had volunteer experience and work experience as an ER tech, in addition, my ability to speak Spanish came in handy so I was able to translate for our docs. Some of the things I did were take vital signs, learn about different medications ( we had to organize all of the medications we brought and put them in individual bags to dispense to patients), do some wound cleaning, give a vaccination, ear lavage, and since I speak Spanish, help the providers get medical histories and do their assessments. You may not be able to practice nursing skills per se but I personally had an amazing experience with both trips. If I didn't have two summer sessions for nursing school, I would totally go again. If you have the time and the money, I would definitely recommend going.

    Ps. Many people on these trips didn't have any experience and were still able to help out.
    Stephalump likes this.
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    I did half of my community health clinical in Nicaragua as part of an initiative sponsored by my University.

    Following graduation, I spent two weeks in Belize on an ISL trip. I was already a licensed nurse at that time and the majority of people on my trip were pre-med undergrads who didn't even know how to use a stethoscope so I was way ahead of the game despite being a new grad with no working experience.

    It is a valuable experience... I still have all the medical missions I've done (Nicaragua, Belize and Tanzania) on my resume and interviewers have commented on that experience in almost every interview I've ever gone on.
    Stephalump likes this.
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    I am also considering going on a trip through ISL. The mission is in June (Costa Rica) but I won't graduate with my BSN until August. Mainly, I am just wondering if ISL is a safe/reliable/worthwhile organization to go through?..or any other comments on the subject.
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    Our SNA chapter at school is going to Belize this summer through ISL! I think there is 1 instructor and 9 or 10 students going!
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    Quote from lexi317
    I am also considering going on a trip through ISL. The mission is in June (Costa Rica) but I won't graduate with my BSN until August. Mainly, I am just wondering if ISL is a safe/reliable/worthwhile organization to go through?..or any other comments on the subject.
    I had a good experience with them six years ago. Their primary focus is experiences for students so it doesn't matter that you won't have graduated yet. I was there with pre-med students, nursing students and pharmacy students. Some trips have dental students as well.


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