News & Stories
January 5, 2024

Nursing students build clinical, cultural connections in Kenya

A June trip to Kenya provided hands-on clinical hours and eye-opening cultural interactions for 27 rising seniors in Berry’s nursing program. Accompanied by three faculty members, the students did everything from building a mud house to delivering a baby to helping a woman die peacefully, reported Director of Nursing Carolyn Reilly.

The future health care professionals logged 50 hours of clinical time and gained three hours of academic credit during the cross-cultural immersion experience, a requirement for Berry nurses. 

At the free clinic, it was all hands on deck as they cared for more than 1,300 people in just two days' time.

Working in rotations, the students served in a hospital and clinic as well as a small community where they helped build houses for widows. At the free clinic, it was all hands on deck as they cared for more than 1,300 people in just two days’ time, completing tasks ranging from taking vital signs during patient check-in to assisting as clinicians diagnosed and treated patients. They also performed finger sticks and lab tests to screen for malaria, assisted an eye clinician and a dentist, and helped distribute medications and educate patients.

Complementing these experiences was a cultural showcase arranged by the group’s in-country host with the goal of fostering a deeper understanding of life in Kenya. The day began with a church service followed by a planned trip to watch a soccer match. En route, they were greeted by a tribe of warriors – in traditional dress complete with spears and drums – who escorted them into the center of town where some 2,500 people were waiting.

As honored guests, the Berry students and faculty were treated to demonstrations of life in the region, including tribal housing, food and games. To show their appreciation, the students learned a Swahili song, which they sang to the elders and widows.

Each evening, faculty-led discussions encouraged group members to reflect on and learn from their experiences, which were funded in part by a gift from Berry Trustee Buster Wright (73C) and his wife, Janice.

“We saw some things in health care that are very different from our system,” Reilly said. “Their approach to childbirth, for example, is very different. We were able to talk about this and the need to show respect, kindness and compassion.

“The pledge our nursing students take when they enter the program echoes Martha Berry’s desire to ‘leave the world more beautiful than when I found it,’” she added. “In Kenya, that translated into asking good questions like, ‘How can we make this dying woman’s last few minutes better because we are here?’ Then, that’s what we did.”

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