Islander Student Nurses Provide Community Health Services during Costa Rica Study Abroad

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A group of 16 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student nurses in the senior-level “Nursing Care of the Community Health Client” course taught by Clinical Assistant Professor Leigh Shaver experienced community health nursing on a whole new level this summer when the cohort traveled to San Isidro de Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, as part of a Study Abroad program. The key objective of the trip was to fulfill a clinical component of the NURS 4660 course, which requires student nurses to complete a family health assessment as well as a community health assessment of Corpus Christi residents. For the first time, however, this clinical focused on the health of residents of the Costa Rican community of San Ramon, roughly 72 miles from the Nicaraguan border.

“To have this experience where you’re immersed in another culture, working with people from very different lifestyle backgrounds than you -- that’s incredibly valuable,” Shaver said. “To be able to do that work in a way that integrates culture into our care is something that we recognize more and more in nursing as a profession.”

After arriving in country on May 18, Shaver and Clinical Assistant Professor Norma Vela traveled with the student nurse group to the Soltis Center for Research & Education, a Texas A&M University System facility that supports the System’s education, research, and outreach program goals. While the Soltis Center routinely hosts Study Abroad programs from across the A&M System, The Islander Nursing cohort represents the first student nurse program hosted at the Soltis Center.

“The Soltis Center is having its 10th anniversary this year,” Shaver said. “They’re very proficient in working with students of all different kinds of backgrounds, but they’d never had nursing students before.”    

For student nurse Rhiannon Rodriguez, a lifelong Corpus Christi resident who has volunteered at Driscoll Children’s Hospital since she was 15 years old, the Study Abroad program in Costa Rica was the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Going to Costa Rica and helping the community definitely reinforced my passion to be a nurse,” Rodriguez said. “It was amazing to see our group help the residents – even in the smallest ways – because as my professor likes to say, ‘You never know what seeds you’re going to plant.’”

The nine-day trip included health screenings at schools as well as family home visits.

“We didn’t want to bring a lot of equipment that needed to be calibrated so we kept it simple,” Shaver said. “We provided screenings for vision, height, and weight as well as eyes, ears, and mouth assessments. We also visited and assessed five families and came back the next day with an intervention.”

Rodriguez said while both Shaver and Vela spoke fluent Spanish, the student also relied on three of their peers who speak Spanish – Jorge Reyna, Stephanie Najera, and Juliss Rodriguez – to ensure information was properly communicated.

Student nurse Brittany Perez said she was most struck by the communal nature of the community.

“It was so amazing to see how the residents live there because it’s so different from our way of life,” Perez said. “They don’t rely on computers or phones or TVs; they focus on providing for their family and their community and I think that’s why they are happier.”

Upon successful completion of the class, which includes additional coursework and presentations over the summer, the cohort is set to graduate during summer commencement on Aug. 10.

Additional Information

NURS 4660 Study Abroad Program Student Roster List

  • Daunika Agado     
  • Peyton Grevely
  • Brittany Perez
  • Jorge Reyna
  • Andrea Soliz
  • Cristina Veliz
  • Rebecca Fenner
  • Alexis Newton
  • Fotini Batsios
  • Morgan Jeanneret
  • Grace Kimball
  • Stephanie Najera
  • Kaitlyn Rather
  • Julissa Rodriguez
  • Margarita Rodriguez
  • Rhiannon Rodriguez