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Growing a Passion for Nursing – International Edition

rachel Zlotnick with Sr. Antonie

There is nothing like the anticipation that surrounds traveling to a new place, the bustle of an airport, collecting a new passport stamp, falling asleep over the Atlantic Ocean and waking up in a foreign country you have never explored to do something you love. M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing student Rachel Zlotnick ’20 of Glastonbury, Conn. learned that firsthand this past May during her 8-week service internship in Madagascar, an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa. Rachel was one of four nursing students selected to participate in the internship program which was established in 2005 through Villanova’s partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which immersed her among the Malagasy people as part of a larger team of 10 Villanova University students representing Nursing, the Villanova School of Business, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering.

Rachel Zlotnick, 5th from right, with fellow Villanova Nurses in Madagascar.
Rachel Zlotnick, 5th from right, with fellow Villanova Nurses in Madagascar.

Rachel traveled to Madagascar to gain a greater perspective and experience in global health by working alongside health care workers in St. Paul Dispensary, a clinic in Mananjary, the seat of a Catholic diocese. In a country where health visits are more of an exception than the norm, there were many differences in the approach to patient care. Rachel and the other Fitzpatrick College of Nursing students met with elected “lead mothers” to share knowledge on nutrition, sanitation, and signs of health emergencies. The lead mothers would then travel back to their villages to teach the newly acquired skills and knowledge.

Rachel jumped straight into her new life in Madagascar by starting to learn French and Malagasy, the two languages spoken most often throughout the country. After a few weeks, she was able to gain her footing and feel a bit more comfortable amongst her co-workers. While in Madagascar she participated in the Fararano Project, which strives to improve the first 1,000 days of life for children born in Madagascar. Rachel shadowed community health promoters at CRS as they worked toward their target of expanding educational activities for mother-child health.

One of CRS’ mantras is “People will not care what you know until you show that you care.” Rachel has taken this to heart noting that among the greatest lessons learned from her global experience is “the importance of asking before answering and listening before speaking.” Rachel says that she has carried this lesson into her clinical work at home and has applied it throughout her daily life.

Rachel credits her confidence to lean into discomfort, strength, and new appreciation of “goodwill among all people” to her time in Madagascar. She took each day as it came, whether it was learning a new language or how to cook on an open fire on the Island of Smiles. She has grown and has been changed for the better.