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Clayton State student nurses learn, help abroad

Participants in Clayton State University's School of Nursing 2013 Haiti Study Abroad program gather outside Wesleyan Hospital for a group photo. (Special Photo)

Participants in Clayton State University's School of Nursing 2013 Haiti Study Abroad program gather outside Wesleyan Hospital for a group photo. (Special Photo)

MORROW — Clayton State University student nurses took Haiti by storm during their recent nine-day study abroad trip.

That is according to a member of the La Gonave Haiti Partnership.

“There is no way to say how much the people of La Gonave appreciated their professionalism, their warm and open spirit and their skills,” said Deborah Griffin, a board member of the La Gonave Haiti Partnership who traveled with the group as a volunteer guide.

The nine-member group included Shekita Redding, Shelita West, Karen Massiah, Kasandra Jackson, Rufina Greene, Vanessa Newton-Pulley, Colleen Walters, Mojisola Bakare and Monique Murray.

They were led by Clayton State nursing professors Dr. Jennell Charles and Lynn Stover. Charles is also a board member of the La Gonave Haiti Partnership, a “ministry of presence” and a community development partnership between the people of La Gonave, Haiti, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and the United States.

Students were assigned to work in the Bill Rice Clinic and Wesleyan Hospital in an experience that encompassed experiential learning, cultural immersion and international community service.

Walters is the University System of Georgia’s Chancellor’s Award in 2012. The Hampton resident also graduated from Clayton State bachelor’s degree in nursing program.

She now serves as a clinical instructor in the program and a staff nurse at Southern Regional Hospital.

She said the goal “was not to impose or rescue, but to develop relationships and trust through which we could help to meet the needs of the community of La Gonave, long term.”

Griffin said the group’s presence and efforts in Haiti made an impression.

“Having been with many medical teams I can tell you I have never seen a team so welcomed by the people of La Gonave,” Griffin said. “There was a sense of pride at having professionals from the United States, people who looked like them, in the trenches and doing the work together. These nurses accomplished things that would be difficult for many others.”

Griffin said half of the student nurses went to the clinic while the other half went to the hospital.

“Over the course of the week these nurses learned, trained others and perhaps the most positive aspect, they taught the staff at both places to make use of things they already had on hand to work toward better diagnostic outcomes,” she said. “They never lost their spirit or compassion.”

She said that, at the end of each day, the group would brainstorm about what was needed to make things better.

“Simple things … practical suggestions … the kind of things we need to address first if we are to build a sustainable system in Haiti,” said Griffin.

Massiah said the trip was a life-changing experience.

“(The trip) was one of the most challenging and life-changing experiences of my nursing career,” she said. “It is an opportunity that should be experienced by every nurse because of the culturallydiverse experience and in-depth knowledge gained while interacting with nursing colleagues in a healthcare system that is different from your own.”

To donate to or to learn more about The La Gonave Haiti Partnership, visit www.lagonavepartners.org.