BSN Costa Rica Mission Trip
When Dr. Lena Rippstein, director of nursing at Schreiner University, came across International Service Learning—an educational service that enlists medical and educational volunteer teams to provide services to under-served populations in Central and South America—she knew it was something her nursing students should experience.
In August, Rippstein and 12 nursing students spent nine days in Costa Rica. The students, which were split into teams of three, assessed anywhere from 30 to 50 patients a day.
The experience, although different for each student, was positive, and each nursing student left with a better knowledge of skills and a newfound respect for the people of Costa Rica.
The following is a first person account of the trip by Heather Jackson, a senior in Schreiner’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.
She was a little standoffish at first. She wanted to know why we were there and what we wanted. The “white man” used to be seen as a symbol of hope, a trusting person. Not for this lady. A few days prior to us showing up a white man’s dog had bitten her. He promised to take her to the doctor, pay the bills and give her some money. He did none of these; she no longer trusted the “white man.” She had recently kicked her abusive husband out, been sent home by her employer because of the bite and had seven kids at home.
The day that we arrived for the clinic was the same day the “white man” had promised to take her to the doctor and never appeared. She told us she put it in God’s hands, and then we showed up. She came to the clinic and let us take a look at the bite and prescribe antibiotics. She was so thankful we were there and grateful for everything we did for her.
This lady was just one of the many people we met on our nursing mission trip to Costa Rica. Most of the people were very welcoming of us and glad we were there to help; she was the only exception, and she made the most difference in my experience. We didn’t just treat the infection; we treated her as a person, which is what being a nurse is all about.
When we heard about the possibility of a trip to Costa Rica to do clinicals, I was so excited. I had been to Africa the year prior for a mission trip and I was itching to do it again. Only this time I would be doing what I love. So in August, 12 Schreiner BSN students and our fearless leader Dr. Rippstein set out to spend 9 days in Costa Rica.
It was an experience we will never forget. We served in a small town called La Carpia for three days, and an even smaller rural town Frijanes for two. In each town we met different people and had different experiences, but there was a trend of thankfulness and respect; just showing up made a difference to them. In the end we ended up helping a total of 110 patients in our five days in the towns. We saw everyone from newborn to the elderly. We got great experience seeing what different infections look like, practicing our assessment skills and being culturally sensitive.
One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was seeing how thankful they were to know that someone cared. In the first village, we had time to play with the kids for the day. We played duck, duck, goose, head and shoulders, and a game that reminded me of ring-around-the-rosy. It was so much fun and it brought joy to the children’s faces. Even though we didn’t speak the same language we were still able to make a difference in their lives, and they in ours.
We were immersed in the culture. Every day we had homemade authentic Costa Rican or Nicaraguan dishes, fresh squeezed juices, homemade ice cream, fresh fruit, anything you could think of. On the last two days we were able to go sightseeing. One day we went to the Manuel Antonio National Park. We had to walk through the jungle to get to the beach. It was so amazing. There were white sandy beaches. There were monkeys, sloths, raccoons and iguanas hanging out in the trees, and the trees went almost right up to the water’s edge. It looked like a scene out of a movie. The second day we went zip-lining over the forest and then to hot springs. It was a great way to end our week of service.
Serving on this trip confirmed that I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. It also gave us the opportunity to see another side of each other, personalities that we might not have normally gotten to see. Being part of the nursing program we were all already pretty close, but this brought us closer together. This was an experience we may not have gotten if we hadn’t come to Schreiner.
I came to Schreiner on a leap of faith. I honestly cannot tell you how I found out about Schreiner or why it was the only university I applied to. Looking back I can’t believe I made the choice to come to Schreiner. After all, they did not offer a BSN when I came, and that was the only major I wanted to go into. But, I came anyway and I never expected to have the experiences I’ve had.
On May 11, 2013 the first Schreiner Bachelor of Science in Nursing class will graduate and sit for the NCLEX. We were all brought to Schreiner by some string of events and we will all be leaving together. We’ve made amazing memories, wonderful friends and have had once in a lifetime opportunities.
Schreiner may be a small university, but the possibilities are endless. And our possibilities as BSN prepared nurses can take us anywhere. I am thankful for the fact that something led me to choose Schreiner and all the difference that choice has made in my life.