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Cultural Experiences Add Skills to Students’ Nursing Toolbox

May 23, 2019

In Navajo culture, it is disrespectful to point at people and looking elders directly in the eye is considered rude. That’s information Melissa Kenney ’19, a recent graduate of the Wegmans School of Nursing, learned through her senior preceptorship at the Kayenta Health Center, located on the Navajo Reservation.

Melissa Kenney did a preceptorship at the Kayenta Health Center, located on the Navajo Reservation.

Each semester, the School of Nursing has offered its students with the opportunity to travel across the country and globe to provide medical care as part of their coursework. Most recently, students traveled to Barcelona, Spain; Tanzania, Africa; and Kayenta, Arizona, where the Navajo reservation is located.

Before seeing patients, an orientation introduced Kenney and her peers to Navajo culture and underscored the importance of incorporating culture into care.

“The staff at the clinic were very eager to share what it is like to work in Kayenta, and the common health problems they see daily,” said Kenney, who hopes to work in a medical-surgical unit at a hospital in Buffalo, her hometown. “The two weeks in the clinic helped me gain confidence in educating patients and also made me more comfortable discussing the cultural aspect of care with patients.”

During the preceptorship, the students shadowed health care professionals in different areas of care, including podiatry, women’s health, primary care, pediatrics, behavioral health, and physical therapy.

For Megan Butters, the experience taught her to be sensitive to individual needs. “There will be patients whose health is being compromised because of their personal beliefs that I’m sure I will encounter frequently,” she explained. “And while I might disagree with their management choices at times, it will always be my job to be respectful and take care of them in ways that are acceptable to the patient.”

Butters, who will begin work in August on the Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Strong Memorial Hospital, said working at the reservation also underscored the importance of patient education.

“It really showed me how significant that can be in changing the outcome of patient health,” she said, noting that education can help mitigate diseases including diabetes or high blood pressure.

Fisher nurses traveled to Tanzania through Global Volunteers.

Hannah Norberg traveled with a group of nurses to Tanzania with the Global Volunteers organization. While there, she worked in a local clinic, accompanied caregivers on home visits in the community, and taught a workshop on family planning and sexual health.

“I was able to use my education in everything that I did,” Norberg explained. Often equipped with just her stethoscope, she said that her assessment skills really kicked in as she observed patients and worked with translators to ask focused questions.

“The culture in the town was very much centered on trust between the caregivers and the community, so I learned how to build a good rapport with my clients in order to have accurate information,” she said. “This will also help me in America, because patient rapport and trust is the basis for nursing.”

Norberg is grateful to have these experiences as she begins a position with the Cardio-Vascular step-down surgery unit at Strong Memorial Hospital. “I have developed so many skills to keep in my nursing toolbox as I begin a rewarding career,” she said.