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Lessons learned.

"LOOK OUT FOR THE RAPIDS! OH BOY, I THINK WE'RE SINKING. There go our luggage and our medical supplies." These words were uttered as our canoe hit some unruly rapids and capsized. We were on a dugout canoe, powered by a small motor, going from village to village in the Amazon. Luckily, there were two other dugouts that retrieved our luggage and helped us get to shore, and by the time we unpacked and discarded many ruined supplies our canoe was dry. It was then that the motor burst into flames, shooting flames 20 feet into the air. Our boatmen dumped the canoe, put out the fire, and with the help of a screwdriver repaired the motor, and off we went once again in our dugout.

All of this occurred after we had safely navigated "El Camino Del Muerte," the Road of Death, purported to be the most dangerous road in the world, with an average death toll of one person a day. Within the span of a two-week period, eight nursing students and I survived the death road; saw our boat capsize and then catch fire; were invaded by squirrel monkeys; swam with dolphins while Pedro, a 12-foot alligator served as our lifeguard; slept on a beach only to be attacked by an over-zealous population of sand fleas; ate grub worms; assisted in putting out a jungle fire; and treated 2,500 individuals with health concerns.

One of the challenges of being a nurse educator is meeting the needs of the students and the community. As our world becomes smaller, we will be much more likely to come into contact with individuals from different cultures. My initiation into the field of medical missions began several years ago, a direct consequence of a multiculturalism course I was teaching. Students gave presentations on a variety of cultures, and the class had opportunities to be engaged in multicultural events in our community. Following these "cultural explorations" students had the opportunity to discuss their thoughts on the explorations. My "aha" moment came when one particular student said, "My father and grandfather were from Germany. They told me the Holocaust was made up by the Jews to get sympathy. I was never sure, but now after visiting the Holocaust Museum I know what they said was wrong. It hurts me now to think of all those people dying." I realized that if we continued to stay in the safe confines of academia, we would be limiting the opportunities of our students to understand and explore the "real world."

Susan Fletcher, EdD, RN, is a professor at Chamberlain College School of Nursing in St. Louis, Missouri. In her article in Giving Through Teaching: How Nurse Educators Are Changing the World, she talks about what works and what does not when traveling with nursing students to take part in medical missions in Central America, South America, and Asia.

Giving Through Teaching: How Nurse Educators Are Changing the World, is edited by Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, PhD, RN, FAAN, Cathleen M. Shultz, PhD, RN, FAAN, CNE, and Tonia D. Aiken, JD, RN, and published by Springer Publishing (May 2010). The editors, inspired by President Bill Clinton's Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, have gathered an extensive and compelling series of stories from more than 100 contributors. The NLN Foundation for Nursing Education has worked in collaboration on this project and will receive all proceeds from sales of this book.

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Title Annotation:End Note
Author:Fletcher, Susan
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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