Nurses without borders

Four traveled here from Mexico to keep learning
Thursday, April 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:51 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Prepared IV kits, machines that keep track of patient medication and electric beds that move at the touch of a button are new experiences for four student nurses visiting MU from Mexico.

“In Monterrey, they use mercury thermometers. Here they use electronic,” said Claudia Flores, who, along with three other women, is broadening her education in a four-week tour of the American Midwest.

In the Collaborative Learning Across Borders project, 90 nursing students from six universities in the United States, Canada and Mexico are classmates in a course that prepares students to serve and work with different cultures. Primarily Web-based, the class also includes on-site instruction and, for select students, the opportunity to travel to one of the partner schools to study and observe nursing practices.

The project is funded by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.

Flores and Itzely Franco, who attend the University of Nuevo Leon, and Fabiola Rodriguez and Miriam Avila of the University of San Luis Potosi are spending time at both MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing and the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing.

Breaking the language barrier

“The nurses learn to work in different situations with culturally diverse populations,” said Diana Stribling, who coordinates the program at MU.

Avila described how she had cared for a patient who spoke a different language by communicating with hand gestures and facial expressions.

“It is difficult but not impossible to communicate,” she said.

Improving their English communication skills is one reason these nurses are taking the class. It is Avila’s first time in a country where English is the native tongue.

Although nurses’ uniforms are different — nurses in Mexico wear all-white uniforms to make a formal impression — their mission is the same.

“Your knowledge is more important than your uniform,” Avila said.

Mary Ann Ewigman, an American nurse who is taking the class through MU, said the visiting nurses are typical of nurses everywhere.

“They aren’t afraid; they are very empathetic. They fit in,” she said. “It’s a nursing thing to help out and teach.”

Rodriguez said she looks forward to sharing her observations about American life with her classmates back home.

“I have more cultural experience to tell the teachers and classmates,” she said. “It is quieter here. There is less pollution. The traffic signs are respected.”

On Friday, Franco, Rodriguez, Avila and Flores will leave for the University of Iowa and then return to Mexico carrying stories and memories to share with their classmates.

“You can see the stars here,” Franco said, moving her hand in an arc to show the sky.

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