Nursing student, faculty member travel to Ghana

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Davidson County Community College student and faculty member recently returned from a 10-day trip to Ghana, where they laid the groundwork for future study abroad opportunities for students in the college’s nursing program.
Faculty member Elizabeth Weeks and second-year nursing student Susan Thornton visited hospitals, orphanages, a rehabilitation center and a prenatal clinic in Kumasi, Ghana. Hosted by Premier Nurses Training College, they spent their time connecting with nursing faculty and students and observing their working conditions and practices.
Their primary mission was to find out how DCCC can develop a sustained study abroad program for nursing students in Ghana or another African country.
“There’s definitely a lot for nursing students to learn in Ghana,” Weeks said. “There are great opportunities for students to see how other cultures practice healing and deal with illness.”
Weeks says she was most interested in seeing how medical care is conducted outside the United States, especially in conditions so different from where she and her students are accustomed to working. The hospitals they visited did not have air conditioning or running water.
For both Weeks and Thornton, the experience gave them new perspective about their profession, which they hope to share with their classmates at DCCC and through future study abroad trips.
Thornton, who will graduate with her associate degree in nursing in May 2015, says the trip affected the direction she plans to take in her career and that she may consider a community health role, treating or educating underserved populations.
“I have no words to express all the things I took away from Ghana,” she says. “You think you have a perception about what a place will be like, and then you step into it and your world expands exponentially. It’s opened my eyes and softened me up to working with those less fortunate than me. There are people in our own back yard who aren’t getting the health care they need.”
A scholarship from the Briggs Foundation, which provides funding to students in DCCC’s nursing program, supported Thornton’s travel costs for the trip, which was one of five study abroad trips to five different continents DCCC organized this summer.
This summer, DCCC students and faculty are also taking study abroad trips to China, Peru, Spain and Australia and New Zealand.