Spring break a time for continued learning

Eight Hesston College students spent time observing in Puerto Rican schools and interacting with teachers and students during spring break

Hesston College sophomore Olivia Miller (Newton, Kan.) arrived in India for spring break 2014 not knowing what to expect from cultural differences and learning experiences tied to her nursing major. Miller, along with 10 other nursing students and two sponsors, spent the week experiencing first-hand just how different India is from the U.S. in everything from cultural practices and hospitality to stark differences in health care.

Travel for continued learning was a popular option for Hesston College students during spring break, March 8 to 16. Four groups traveled around the globe to experience their majors of study in new locations and cultures and learn beyond typical campus projects and interactions while serving others.

Aside from nursing students in India, another group of nine nursing students traveled to Russia with faculty leader Gregg Schroeder and his wife Cindy. Education instructors Tami Keim and Marissa King led eight students to Puerto Rico, and 14 students spent the week serving with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) in Duluth, Minn., accompanied by Disaster Management Program director Russ Gaeddert and campus pastor Todd Lehman.

Led by Nursing faculty member Jean Rodgers and Hesston Mennonite Church pastor John Murray, the Hesston College India delegation spent spring break in the southern village of Chiluvuru where they observed and assisted doctors at Menno-Clinic, India, a privately-operated affordable medical care option for the region’s population.

The students spent several days at the clinic working in a rotation to participate in different aspects of the operation – taking blood pressures and pulses at the initial check in, observing cataract surgeries and other procedures at the eye clinic and helping doctors in the exam room, lab and pharmacy.

They also toured government-run hospitals where they experienced nursing in a much different way from the holistic care they are taught in Hesston’s program, reminding students why they choose to pursue nursing and to note the practices and behaviors they hope to carry with them as they begin their own careers

“One thing that impacted me and tugged on my beliefs was the lack of patient centered care at the government hospital we visited,” said Miller. “The head doctor himself said that the hospital was a teaching hospital and the priority was not the patients but the students who were learning in that facility. This really clashed with what we focus on in Hesston’s program. Patient-centered care has and will always be at the core of my beliefs and practices as a nurse.”

The Hesston College nursing students who visited Russia participated in a roundtable discussion with midwifery and nursing students at the oldest midwifery school in the world in St. Petersburg and toured the College of Midwifery. The group also traveled to Veliky Novgorod where they participated in a conference on Simulation in Nursing Education at the Medical University, toured the hospital to see how nursing care compares to the U.S., toured Victoria Children’s Rehabilitation Center and School and spent a day in the small village of Utorgosh where they played games with children and taught them English words.

Back in the U.S., the Minnesota group worked on siding, painting and laying floors in three new houses being constructed for those affected by floods in June 2012.

The construction and leadership skills that sophomore Jeffrey Smoker (Harrisonburg, Va.) has learned through classes, service opportunities and a summer field experience assignment with Mennonite Disaster Service following his freshman year, prepared him to serve as a crew leader for his peers during the week.

“As crew leader, I got to know the six people in my crew much better than I had before,” said Smoker. “I enjoyed teaching my crew new skills, such as how to hang siding on a house.”

While Disaster Management students were braving freezing temperatures in Minnesota, education students focused on educational pedagogy in the sun and warmth of Puerto Rico.

The group visited classrooms and observed and conversed with teachers and students at Summit Hills, a preschool to 12th grade private Mennonite academy in San Juan on the northern coast, and at Academia Menonita Betania, a Mennonite school in Aibonito, the central mountain area of the country.

“Our students represented interest and study across the educational spectrum, so our conversations were informed not only by all we had observed but by classes, practicum, tutoring working in public schools and our on-campus preschool lab,” said King.