UK Nursing Student Finds Her Calling on an STSG Health Brigade to Ecuador

STSG in Ecuador

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2017) University of Kentucky nursing student Mia Jackson was able to discover her passion for working with children during her experience abroad with the Shoulder to Shoulder Global (STSG) health brigade. Twenty-eight additional students, 21 faculty members or health care professionals, and six members of the UK/Lexington community joined Jackson in Ecuador to share this transformational experience.

STSG is a UK Global Health Initiative organization that integrates academic and community partners to improve the health and well-being of impoverished and underserved communities while offering the opportunity to students to work in a multicultural and interdisciplinary setting.

During the brigade, Jackson said she was able to learn and observe the other types of treatment that patients received from her peers.

"I got the experience to follow a patient through each station and it was wonderful getting to see what each team does and how they give care," Jackson said. "From this experience, I realized that it's ok to step outside of your box and help other specialties when you may not feel comfortable."

While in Ecuador, Jackson was able to combine nursing and her skills speaking the Spanish language to connect with patients at the local clinic, including the young ones.

"I didn't know what type of specialty nurse I wanted to be, but when I went to Ecuador I connected with a lot of children," Jackson said. "Being with them on the brigade helped me realize that kids are my specialty."

Jackson also said she learned about the importance of equal opportunity care regardless of the environment or conditions in which the professional is working in.

"From working with those patients at the clinic, I realized it's not about the type of care, but the quality of care," Jackson said. "Regardless of the tools we had, we still had to give the same quality care to the patients."

STSG brigades see patients at the main clinic, Centro de Salud Hombro a Hombro in Santo Domingo, Ecuador; conduct house visits; and visit pop-up clinics in various locations, depending on need.

During the brigade, Jackson was part of a small team that did a home visit for an elderly man who was wheelchair bound. He thought that he would never be able to walk again. During the visit, Jackson and the physical therapy team realized that the man could still walk, if given the proper care.  

"It was very interesting to realize how the patient was able to get around in his house and move from the wheelchair to his bed," Jackson said. "It was very hard for him to not have his original strength, but he was working so hard the entire time to get his strength back."

Jackson said that his family was eager to learn different methods from the physical therapy team members so that they could help him regain his strength.

The nursing student also had the opportunity to work with the Tsáchila community, an indigenous tribe of Santo Domingo. The Tsáchila community was primarily located in the jungle so Jackson and the rest of the brigade team had limited resources to set up clinical supplies.

"At one point, we were able to make tables out of wood boards," Jackson said. "This experience really showed me how to make something out of nothing when you are faced with difficult challenges that test your skills." 

Reflecting on her education abroad experience, Jackson said, "I believe it's key to study abroad in college if you want to experience a different culture. To me, experiencing different cultures is key to being able to do any type of professional work, because everyone in the world is different."

Help transform the lives of students like Mia Jackson by supporting STSG during the 2017 GoodGiving Challenge. Donations collected during the fundraiser, which runs Nov. 28 through Dec. 31, provide health and education to an impoverished community while giving Kentucky students a unique, transformative educational experience. Your gift helps to keep the experience affordable to students while providing quality health care to the inhabitants of Santo Domingo, Ecuador.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue