MAY 12, 2004

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SWOSU nursing students provide help for uninsured patients in South Texas


SWOSU nursing students Jofy Jose (left) and Kendra Heizer provide help to a patient during the diabetic foot clinic trip.

A recent trip for college students was not a typical trip for several Southwestern Oklahoma State University nursing students on the Weatherford campus.

Ten students, accompanied by faculty member Mattie Tolley, drove 15 hours to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to spend a week treating the area's uninsured patients. The students set up a diabetic foot care clinic at Hope Medical Clinic in McAllen and treated patients' feet and gave tips on such items as cutting toenails properly and buying the proper shoes.

The students came back with a different attitude.

"These people really needed our help," nursing student Vickie Zoeller said. "It inspired me to know that I can make myself available by volunteering at a clinic and actually help people."

Most of the patients could not speak English, but the SWOSU students managed to communicate with the south Texans. Before they left on the trip, several SWOSU students and faculty member Susan Al-Jarrah taught the nursing students some medical terminology in Spanish.

"You could see it in their eyes, they appreciated our help," said Jennifer Duerksen, another SWOSU student who made the trip. "It was an opportunity to learn about a different culture and make a difference in peoples' lives."

Zoeller said diseases are prevalent in the area, and it is estimated that 60% of the Hispanic people in that area have diabetes. Many of the people can not afford medicine to control their sickness or a proper diet.

Both Zoeller and Duerksen said the students learned that there are many ways that people can help at community clinics, where doctors and nurses treat people without health insurance. A medical background is not always necessary because there are needs for tasks such as secretarial duties or clothing inventory, for example. While there, the SWOSU students also organized a medication room and did other manual labor around the clinic.

All of the students took a transcultural nursing class, taught by Tolley, this spring. In addition to Zoeller and Duerksen, other students who made the trip were Rita Carr, Brianne Genow, Autumn Goodman, Kendra Heizer, Jofy Jose, Marci Prince, Tyler Tims and Brooke Wauh.

Tolley said the trip was a nursing class lesson to help students become more sensitive to other cultures.

According to the students, this lesson was learned.

Contact: Brian Adler, 1-580-774-3063