Villanova, PA, June 2, 2010 — Since 2008, Villanova Nursing faculty have been accompanying students who are participating in the International Nursing elective to Durban, South Africa each May. The nursing students, partially supported with Connelly-Delouvrier International Nursing Scholarships, learn about the health care system and Zulu culture in South Africa as well as the impact of poverty and the former apartheid system on the community. They see young and old ravaged by the effects of HIV/AIDS and new definitions of "family" as school-aged orphans or grandmothers ("go-gos") run households. The impact of the experience? Change—in both the students and those for whom they provided care.
"I bring back a new passion for helping the poor and marginalized communities in the U.S.," says Alyssa Canino who traveled to Durban with seven other students from May 8 to 23, 2010. She reflected on the eagerness of the children in St. Theresa's Home for Children. These children, aged five to ten, wanted to learn the hand washing and tooth brushing skills taught by the Villanova nursing students and reveled in the nurses' encouraging words during return demonstrations. Canino, who learned Zulu phrases to communicate with the younger children and aspires to be a pediatric nurse practitioner, notes "Working with the Zulu children was the most rewarding aspect of my experience in Durban." Similar teaching was done at St. Leo's school where nearly 700 students were provided with new toothbrushes by the Villanova nursing students.
The students toured St. Mary's Hospital and went to area clinic sites reached by its mobile vans used for voluntary HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. They also helped with patient care at 1000 Hills Community Center and the Hillcrest Respite Center for HIV/AIDS patients. For Ali Spicer, "The packed clinics, the babies and people in Hillcrest made the numbers real, unmistakable." The senior says, "With each site visited, each child or go-go I came in contact with, it became increasingly clear that there are two main components in terms of the spread of HIV and the health consequences of such an illness: the issues of education and sustainability." The sentiment is echoed by Christina Trunzo, noting the critical need for early health teaching after seeing children with decaying teeth due to lack of education about mouth care. She values "heath education from personal hygiene to more serious topics such as sexual development."
Students assisted Frances Keen, DNSc, RN, assistant dean and director of the Undergraduate Program with health screenings at St. Theresa’s as colleague Elizabeth Blunt, PhD, CRNP, coordinator of the nurse practitioner programs, completed more complex physical exams on each of the 66 boys evaluated. The physical exams for the boys had started two years ago when the same faculty initially visited the Home. They documented assessment data on health screening forms developed by Assistant Professor Elise Pizzi, MSN, CRNP for a visit in 2009 as there were previously only very basic records
A Villanova nursing group will return to Durban in May 2011, continuing the health screenings, HIV/AIDS care, health promotion and human connections that are expanding the professional and personal horizons of the new nurses.