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Nursing students and faculty devote summer to global caregiving

Service learning trips teach students more than just clinical care. They offer nursing students the opportunity to develop respect for unfamiliar cultures while facing real-world health care challenges.

Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing faculty and students are embarking on a two-week immersion experience at five sites around the world —Moultrie, Ga., West Virginia, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands.  

From June 3 to June 22 more than 30 undergraduate nursing students along with faculty will work with local health care providers and community partners to provide health care, community assessments, program evaluations and sustainability projects in each location.

"Service learning has long been a pillar of Emory's School of Nursing," says Linda McCauley, PhD, RN, dean and professor, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. "Service learning trips teach students more than just clinical care. They offer nursing students the opportunity to develop respect for unfamiliar cultures while facing real-world health care challenges such as working with interpreters and facing medical supply shortages."  

Moultrie, GA

Just four hours from Atlanta in Moultrie, Ga., a team of nursing students is spending two weeks caring for farm workers and their families. The Migrant Farm Worker Family Health Program has allowed Emory nursing students to provide critical nursing care to more than 15,000 people since 1994. The nursing students will examine children by day and set up mobile clinics to treat adult farm workers in the evening, providing these workers and their families with health care they might not otherwise be able to obtain.  

West Virginia

For the third year, nursing students and faculty will be traveling to West Virginia to partner with Cabin Creek Health System, a health system serving an underserved, rural population. Students will evaluate how well the health system's Medicaid disabled population's mental health needs are being met. They will see patients in clinics and in their homes, asking them about their mental health needs and issues that drive patients to use other sources of care such as emergency departments and urgent care centers.  

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, Emory is partnering with two programs in Hospital San Vincente de Paul in San Francisco de Macoris. Students will evaluate the volunteer doula program and update the data collection tool of the Kangaroo Mother Care project, a method of caring for premature infants that involves constant skin to skin contact in place of an incubator. Infants who might otherwise spend their first days or weeks in an incubator are now with their mothers 24/7. Additionally students will visit hospitals at the provincial periphery and observe the workings of the referral system within the public health infrastructure.


For more than a decade, Emory’s School of Nursing has partnered with local organizations on the small island of Eleuthera and with the Bahamian Ministry of Health to support Eleuthera in its campaign to encourage healthy lifestyles. Emory nursing students will interact with Eleutheran leaders and residents to learn what the communities view as priorities for their health, assess strengths and areas for growth, and suggest ways to support local efforts. The student nurses also will work with local nurses to assist in their care of clinic patients, and will offer health education for primary and secondary school students.    

Virgin Islands

Due to increased interest in global health opportunities, a new site in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands was established in 2013. Emory nursing students will support local efforts to increase awareness about diabetes and obesity. The students will collaborate intensively with the Virgin Islands Center for Obesity, a local endocrinologist, and a Federally Qualified Health Center to develop strategic plans, photographic guides for portion control with Caribbean cuisine, and surveys to determine patient satisfaction, access to care, and cultural preferences for health information delivery. 

"Experiences such as these serve as a vivid reminder of why we all chose this profession," says Lisa Muirhead, a clinical assistant professor and the cultural exchange coordinator for the School of Nursing’s Lillian Carter Center for Global Health & Social Responsibility. "We truly care about these communities that we serve. The first-hand experiences are invaluable and will only help enhance the caring skills that are the heart of nursing.”

Student photos and blogs highlighting their experiences are available at

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