Pictured from left to right are: (back) Jonathan White, SRNA, Jennifer Easterling, SRNA,Ginger Gates, CRNA, Lisa Vanderwall, SRNA; (front) Jason Clark, SRNA, Nanette Wells-Brooks, CRNA, Assistant Director Nurse Anesthesia Program
Several nursing anesthetist students from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga spent several days volunteering in hospitals in Ecuador.
Led by Dr. Nanette Wells-Brooks, UTC Assistant Professor of Nursing and Assistant Coordinator of the Nurse Anesthesia Program, the group spent more than a week volunteering in three hospitals in Quito and Ambato, Ecuador. The students were involved in all levels of care for patients, including pre-operative, surgery, and post-operative.
“They were allowed to do everything. While they were always supervised, it was a good learning experience,” Dr. Wells-Brooks said. The students also got experience working in unique conditions. In addition to surviving 12-to-16 hour workdays, the students learned to work in a new and different environment. Often, they were without most of the monitoring equipment they were accustomed to using back home.
“At first, they all had that ‘deer caught in headlights’ look on their faces. I could tell they were anxious and panicking. But by the end of the week, they had picked it up and were much more assertive. They were able to do things on their own,” she continued. The students spent most of their time in the pediatrics ward, scrubbing in on plastic surgeries ranging from cleft lips to facial deformities.
“We tried to see as many people as we could because we knew people would not receive this care if we didn’t get to them. It was very challenging, but rewarding work,” Dr. Wells-Brooks said. “It was a very transformative experience. It makes students think critically and apply knowledge they learned in their classes to new cases and experiences. While in Ecuador, they got to experience a totally new environment and work on cases they’ve never seen before,” she continued.
The students also learned the value of giving back to the community. “An experience like that teaches students the value of altruism, and that nursing is ultimately a career about service,” Dr. Wells-Brooks said.