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Nursing Students Travel to Cambodia for Maymester, Service

Earlier this summer, Belmont sent four family nurse practitioner (FNP) students to Cambodia for a service-focused Maymester experience. While they were there, the students treated nearly 550 patients in both rural and urban areas and visited cultural sites throughout the country. The group, which included Kelsey Bivacca, Allison Courtney, Kendall Schoenekase and Hannah Stirnaman, was funded through scholarships provided by Hope through Healing Hands and CVS and partnered with Freedom’s Promise, a Nashville-based nonprofit and Sihanouk Hospital for Hope in Phnom Penh.

Prior to leaving Nashville, the group prepared for their trip by spending time together, researching Cambodia, becoming more familiar with Cambodian culture and discussing basic travel expectations. Upon their arrival to Phnom Penh, their home base for the trip, the group began traveling throughout the country, popping up interprofessional clinics made up of both nursing and pharmacy students. The FNP students were responsible for gathering patient history, assessing, diagnosing and treating each patients, with the help of a translator.

A FNP student examines a Cambodian patient in the back of her van -- getting creative with the resources she was given while on Maymester in Cambodia.
Bivacca examines a patient in the back of their van.

Though each clinic included similar duties, they all provided unique environments for the students to practice within. In some towns, individual homes were opened to serve as make-shift offices and other exams were conducted outside, in the Cambodian heat. Many time, the students used their van as an exam room of sorts — providing a place for patients to be examined in privacy. Bivacca said that was one of the experience’s greatest challenges, becoming more and more resourceful with what they were given. “We were all challenged to think outside the box and get creative,” she said. “And the results were great.”

Throughout the experience, students were asked to embrace countless new opportunities including immersing themselves in cross-cultural servanthood. “This is something Belmont embodies completely,” Bivacca said. “The first thing I noticed when I came to Belmont was the way the instructors interact with students. They have found their calling to serve the future generation of healthcare professionals, and by doing this, they have modeled servanthood. Seeing this model helps us embody the same presence.”


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