By Staff Writer Kylie Cooper.
Nursing students traveled to the Azores over spring break to learn about health care systems and homelessness in the United States and Portugal. The opportunity was part of the Bridging the Atlantic exchange with the University of the Azores nursing program.
“We went to different clinics that they had and hospitals to compare American health care and Portuguese health care,” said Jasmine Kelly ‘20, nursing.
Kelly went to Sao Miguel, the biggest island within the Azores, with five other UMass Dartmouth students and two professors. At the clinics and hospitals, they met with Chief Nursing Officers, shadowed a nurse for a day, and took part in many workshops and discussions. They also visited homeless shelters to understand long term solutions.
“It honestly was kind of remarkable because it was not what I expected it to be,” Kelly said. “It’s such a small island, but they have a lot of the technological advances that we have here in America.”
Despite the technological advances, nurses still lack some resources because of the island’s size and only have a few hospitals. In Sao Miguel, nurses work eight-hour shifts and have similar patient ratios that nurses in the U.S. have, but they do not have aides.
The amount of work, however, only makes the nurses more dedicated to the profession. The opportunity to shadow a family nurse and glimpse into her true life was one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip for Kelly.
“A lot of the nurses still take that time to be with their patients,” Kelly said. “I feel like that’s what we’re missing in America.”
She suggested that nurses in America sometimes try to treat as many patients and then send them home, while nurses in Sao Miguel make strong and lasting connections with their patients.
“[By] doing clinicals and working, you sometimes forget why you wanted to do [nursing] and why you wanted to be a nurse,” Kelly said. “But seeing them interact with patients, it really inspired me.”
Throughout the trip, the students were also able to experience the culture of Sao Miguel. They toured the island and a museum, visited volcanoes and hot springs, and enjoyed food cooked by the University of the Azores students and their families.
“The people there were so welcoming,” Kelly said. “Whenever we wanted something or needed something, they would go to the ends of the earth.”
The Bridging the Atlantic exchange program is also working in the Pre K-8 Henry Lord Community School in Fall River to promote health habits, safety tips, and school success.
Within the Henry Lord Community School, there is a high percentage of students who speak different languages; therefore, a basic foundation of health care practices that each student and family can understand is pivotal.
The culmination of their Henry Lord work will emerge in the form of a health fair, where there will be different educational stations—including ones on hygiene and cleaning—and an informational booklet on how to be healthier for an improved future.
The University of the Azores students will be coming to UMass Dartmouth at the end of April. The Bridging the Atlantic program is part of the College of Nursing’s Global Health Collaborative.