Educational adventure

Amber Willis, senior nursing major gives a BVI citizen a physcial at a clinic

Special to the Chart

Amber Willis, senior nursing major gives a BVI citizen a physcial at a clinic

Rebecca Watts

Over spring break, 16 students and three faculty members traveled to the British Virgin Isles, sponsored by the school of technology.

“They had fun and they worked hard,” said Dr. Tia Strait, dean of the school of technology. “I was very, very impressed with the students. They were very professional, they were kind to everyone they met, so they left a great impression of Missouri Southern State University.”

The students from the nursing, respiratory therapy and dental hygiene department put their knowledge and skills to the test working mostly with children of the Isles. Strait coordinated with Dr. Jenecia Fairfax and the Ministry of Health and Education to get the students involved.

“Every year they screen these primary children and our goal was to give our students a cultural experience,” Strait said. “They got to meet the people, they got to be with them and appreciate them. It’s not like a study abroad where you go and hear lectures and you go on a tour. These kids actually got hands-on experience in their field.”

Dr. Glenda Pippin, director of respiratory therapy, was one of the faculty members on the trip. This was her first time out of the country.

“I think that it broadened (the students’) horizons as far as their cultural diversity and being a foreigner,” Pippin said. “Seeing how their knowledge helped the children, I think it was emotional for them, they were touched by a lot of those kids there.”

Margaret Self, junior respiratory therapy and health science major, said this was an experience she would never forget. The underdeveloped clinics and hospitals made an impact on several of the students.

“We have extra advancements, our health services are above and beyond,” Self said.

On a personal level, the trip helped Johanna Carlson, senior nursing major.

“The best was doing assessments,” she said. “It made me feel confident in head-to-toe assessments and complete physicals. We’re trained well, and it’s an amazing feeling to use our skills.”

Another student said helping grateful people was life-changing.

“It’s phenomenal to know you’re making a difference,” said Charolett Johnson, junior respiratory therapy major. “It’s a great feeling. It’s a whole new world over there; if you go, you would come back a better person. They take nothing for granted. We’re too spoiled here.”

The group worked in five schools, the main clinic in Road Town, Peeples Hospital and a nursing home. The group toured the Hospital, which is currently under construction.

“They’re really trying to modernize their facility,” Strait said

The students even visited citizens in their homes.

“The people of the British Virgin Islands are a lot like the people in southwest Missouri, they’re warm, very friendly and very proper,” Strait said.

Betty Ellis, senior respiratory therapy major, said she enjoyed learning about BVI time, which means ‘no hurry.”

“No one had anything bad to say about anybody,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Strait said she believed the trip defiantly achieved it’s goals. An added bonus, which happened on the trip, was found within the group.

“What I think is great is that the nursing students learned a little more about what respiratory therapists are, and visa-versa,” she said. “We work in a health care system that we need to work interdisciplinary, and so I think this was a great opportunity for the students to get together and learn that as well.”

The students and faculty were surprised to find the Isles citizens didn’t know about the advances in health care.

“They don’t even know what respiratory therapists do,” Pippin said. “Just the fact that they invited us I think was a big accomplishment in itself, and then once we were there we were really ambassadors for Missouri Southern as well as our profession.”

With the scenery around them, Strait it was necessary to enjoy the British Isles.

“We had to let them in the water or they never would of focused on what their objectives were,” she said.

The students and faculty snorkeled, sailed and visited the same island where Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired to write [ITAL]Treasure Island[ENDITAL]. In a restaurant on Norman Island, the group pinned a Southern T-shirt on the wall.

“There was Duke, Yale and Harvard and then there’s bright green Missouri Southern,” Strait said. “We took it off someone. We took it off Glenda Pippin as a matter of fact, everyone signed it, put the date and the departments that were there.”

After indulging in the fun, it was back to work. Strait said most days began at 7 a.m. and the group hardly ever saw the sunset.

“They really did work us to death,” Carlson said.

However, Carlson said the place and the purpose makes it all worthwhile.

“The scenery is so beautiful it takes your mind off the dangerous roads,” she said.

Strait has coordinated with Fairfax for three years. In 2004, Fairfax even visited Southern’s campus to see if the University was up to par.

“She really wanted to see the quality of our educational system and the quality of our medial system before she would approve sending her students here. She only pushes Missouri Southern now,” Strait said. “We have a very good friend over there now.”

Fairfax and the other coordinators with the group made an impact on the students.

“Dr. Fairfax was the best,” Self said. “She stood out from everybody, she was wonderful.”

Strait hopes to make this an annual spring break trip for the school of technology. She said the students and faculty have made such an impact, the Isles citizens said they would be welcomed with open arms.

“I hope future students can go; it was priceless really,” Carlson said.