Experiential and Service Learning Partnerships
After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Wagner College formed a partnership with NGO organization Foundation For Peace. Currently, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and most of the country lacks basic medical care. The Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing offers a yearly medical mission trip to Haiti. The School of Nursing’s professors and graduate nursing students engage in the Comparative Healthcare Practices course, with the course culminating in the medical mission over the College’s spring break. The trip professors and student coordinator work closely with Foundation for Peace staff, carefully planning the details of the upcoming medical mission. In the weeks before the trip, the students gather supplies for their upcoming trip, including much-needed vitamins, wound care supplies, and hygiene supplies.
The 2016 trip to Haiti was lead by faculty member Dr. Edna Aurelus, DNP. Dr. Aurelus was born in Haiti, where she lived until she was 17 years old; Dr. Aurelus then emigrated to the United States with her family. “Haiti is very dear to my heart; many of my family still live there, and the health and medical needs of the country are almost overwhelming,” said Dr. Aurelus. “I make it my mission to go back whenever I can to provide care where it is so desperately needed.” After many months of preparation, Dr. Aurelus, with the help of an adjunct faculty member, lead 14 Family Nurse Practitioner students to Croix-des-Bouquets. There, the students unloaded almost 900 pounds of much-needed medical supplies, working into the night to sort the medications and supplies for the next morning. “From that first experience, I knew we would do great work at the clinic. Everyone’s hearts were in sync with one purpose, and that was to provide the best care possible to the patients we would be caring for the next two days,” wrote one student.
The next morning, the students loaded the medical supplies into the bus, and headed to Ganthier to set up a temporary clinic in a local schoolhouse. At the school-turned-clinic, the students met two Haitian doctors, both of whom had volunteered their time to help assess and diagnose patients. The setting was less than ideal: small, concrete block rooms with poor ventilation that offered little privacy. The students got to work immediately, organizing the clinic they would be working out of for the next two days. While the school was small, the students and FFP team were able to set up one room as an intake and triage room; another room became the pharmacy; three classrooms were used as exam rooms; and a fourth classroom was used for medical evaluations. The local people had traveled from early in the morning and were at the clinic to meet the treatment teams, anxiously awaiting care. “Many of the patients told me they had not had any medical care in over a year,” said one student. “That really affected me… I quickly realized we were likely the only care providers these people would see for the next year, and it made me want to work even harder to make a difference.” Many of the students were touched by the kindness and patience of the Haitian people: “It was an amazing feeling to walk into the schoolhouse and see how many people needed and wanted us to care for them. No one complained, everyone just waited. I am so accustomed to people complaining after waiting 10 minutes in the Emergency Room. This was truly remarkable to me, and it touched my heart,” wrote another student.
For the next two days, the students, their professors, and the doctors worked together, seeing over 500 families. The students were faced with many difficulties, and soon learned how difficult it can be to try to provide medical care in a third-world country: “There were so many moments when I was assessing a patient that I wished that I could just take out a nebulizer, or have a sterile field to drain assist in draining an abscess. There were so many moments where I felt hopeless because there was only so much we could do,” wrote another student. Still, the students were deeply moved by the Haitian peoples’ kindness and generosity of spirit. One student wrote of the experience: “Our time spent at the school providing care to the local Haitian people was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. The overflowing appreciation was enough to fuel us for the whole trip… to see the smiles on their faces, just from having a stethoscope touch their chests. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best… it made me realize how important global health and healthcare providers really are, and how much we take for granted in America.”
This Comparative Healthcare Practices course allowed many of the graduate students to apply what they have been learning in their program, as well as increased their social awareness. One student wrote of her recent experience: “The days I spent assessing Haitian families was an invaluable experience. I used all the assessment and diagnosis skills I learned in all of the classes I have taken at Wagner College. While this experience was challenging because of the volume, atmosphere, and desperation of patients, the experience was one that I recommend to all students. The trip will truly change your outlook on healthcare practices.” Another student had high words of praise for Dr. Aurelus, saying, “This trip was a complete success because of Dr. Aurelus. Her undying passion for Haiti is palpable and her love for the Haitian people made me proud to have been a part of her team. On several occasions I witnessed Dr. Aurelus’ compassion and empathy, emotions that can only be seen when someone truly loves what she does. Dr. Aurelus was a leader that made this trip an experience that I will never forget.”
Nursing students have continued to travel to Haiti in 2017 and 2018.
The mission of the Port Richmond Partnership is to encourage sustainable relationships among members of the Port Richmond and Wagner College communities to enhance student learning and raise civic awareness, while also supporting collaborations that address significant challenges and establish measurable impacts in five high need areas: arts, education, health, economic development and immigration.
The Port Richmond Partnership seeks to develop collaborative programs that contribute to school improvement, economic growth, health care enhancement, and immigration reform; play a significant role in advancing research and inquiry about pressing community issues; and build mutually beneficial curricular and co-curricular placements for Wagner College students to broaden their experiences and strengthen a wide variety of community-based services.
The Port Richmond Partnership offers the following opportunities:
- Curricular and co-curricular based placements for Wagner College faculty, students, and staff
- Professional development activities for area students, teachers, educational personnel, and organizational leaders
- Cooperative programs to forward arts initiatives, school improvement, economic development, immigration reform and health promotion efforts
- Research, data collection and dissemination
Each of the participating organizations brings special strengths and expertise to the collective body. Local schools such as Port Richmond High School, PS 19, and PS 20 open their classrooms and lend assessment strategies to supporting health and literacy programming and promoting college readiness. El Centro del Inmigrante, the North Shore’s leading immigrant settlement center, offers strong advocacy on behalf of immigrants and aids partnership members in understanding immigration reform from both the local and national perspective. Project Hospitality and Community Health Action provide expertise about the medical and social needs of the underserved, as well as disseminate statistics and other important information relevant to the community. The list of partners continues to grow steadily and totals nearly 30 organizations that are now activity collaborating with each other and Wagner College.
The Port Richmond Partnership was first broached by community leaders in 2008, as a way to augment Wagner’s highly successful Civic Innovations Program. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the spring of 2009, officially establishing the Partnership. Based on an agreement between Wagner College and leading organizations and institutions in Port Richmond, the Partnership was designed to extend Wagner’s commitment to learning by doing and to rejuvenate an economically distressed community. Recently, Port Richmond has experienced a large growth in its immigrant population, especially from Mexico. This rapid influx has deeply influenced the social and economic fabric of Port Richmond and has created complex needs in the areas of health care, education, arts and culture, housing, and employment.
Since its inception, the number of partnership organizations has doubled, and through regularly scheduled meetings, partners have worked together closely to tap into existing community assets by continuing to build significant, sustainable, and increasingly ambitious partnerships. To date, 40% of Wagner College undergraduate students have at least one community experience in which they work with and learn from the residents of Port Richmond.
Student Nurse Clinical Externship Program at the Prestigious Johns Hopkins University Hospital:
Each year, four upper-level nursing students are selected to spend six to eight weeks in the summer at this distinguished Baltimore healthcare institution. This extraordinary opportunity, which includes housing accommodations, is made available to the Wagner College Nursing students through the generosity of its’ supporters, Donald ’49 H’88 and Evelyn Lindfors Spiro ’49, H’92. Since the program’s start in 2006, 32 Wagner College Nursing students have benefited from the Spiro family’s support. This clinical internship provides the opportunity to master nursing skills, explore and experience different in-patient settings, and further develop caring nurse-patient relationships. The Johns Hopkins nurse externship offers students the opportunity to successfully bridge from the educational to clinical setting. During their time at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, the student externs work full-time on various units, under the supervision of an experienced nurse. This allows the nurse extern to develop specific clinical skills through observation of nurse-experts and supervised hands-on experience. Students are also given the opportunity to observe clinical, surgical, and specialized state-of-the-art procedures at John Hopkins University Hospital. This is a paid externship.
Jessica Conde ’16 wrote of her experience on a Colo-Rectal Surgical Oncology Unit at JHUH: “Perhaps my favorite part of this job is the relationship I have built with many of my patients. A lot of these patients are on this unit for over a week if they have had major surgery or complications or even over a month if they are older… I have become very close to some patients and I absolutely love helping them. Yesterday, I cared for an older gentleman that had surgery for pancreatic cancer. At the end of my shift he called me over and told me I am going to be a great nurse and that he appreciates everything I have been doing for him. Hearing that validated even more my desire to be a nurse.”
“To have had the opportunity to intern at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland was not only an honor and an amazing experience, but a blessing as well. Practicing all aspects of patient care, both technical and supportive has further validated our desire to become nurses. Wagner College is constantly looking for opportunities for its students and this is by far the best one we have ever been given. The Johns Hopkins Hospital was one of the most professional and evidence based institutions we have ever visited and we gained an immense amount of knowledge during our time there. The home we were provided with was beautiful and our experience was more than we could have ever imagined. We experienced Labor and Delivery, Med Surg, Psych and Surgical Oncology. Working alongside the best nurses and physicians in the country has truly shaped the graduate nurses that we are today and we will forever carry this experience in our hearts. We will be forever thankful to Wagner College and the Spiro family for providing us with this amazing learning experience.” Emily Adams, Jessica Conde, Kendall Kulper, Stephanie Onorato, Wagner College Class of 2016.
Students must meet the following criteria:
- Junior-level Nursing Student
- Good standing in all Nursing theory and clinical courses
- A minimum GPA of 3.2
The following applications are to be submitted to Dr. Gasalberti by December 1st:
- A letter of intent with resume
- Letters of recommendation from two clinical faculty members
Dr. Denise Gasalberti, Faculty Liaison: (718) 420-4508
Kathy Sheehan, Administrator: (718) 390-3436
Wagner College is proud to announce that, for the third year in a row, it has been selected as a partner with the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Beginning in mid-June, Wagner will host 25 of Africa’s brightest emerging civic leaders for a six-week academic and leadership institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative — also known as YALI — which empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their communities. Fellows are young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa who have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. The cohort hosted by Wagner College will be part of a larger group of 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows hosted at institutions across the United States this summer. These exceptional young leaders will meet at the end of their institutes in Washington, D.C. for a presidential summit; select fellows will also spend six weeks in professional development training with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies and government agencies.
Working closely with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and its implementing partner, IREX, Wagner College and the other YALI host institutions have designed academic programs that will challenge, inspire and empower these inspiring young leaders from Africa.
Our Dean, Dr. Paula Dunn Tropello and faculty member Dr. Aleksandra Zagorin have acted as representatives of The Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing over the past two years.
Making the most of a new partnership established between Wagner College and Indian Health Services in the Chinle, AZ region, a group of Graduate nursing students as well as two under graduate seniors participated in the first trip to the reservations in this area. Students were able to take part in seminars about the cultural aspects as well as visiting the health care centers at Tsaile and Pinon with a guided tour through the surrounding canyons to get an understanding of available treatment and living conditions.
Currently a DNP student herself, Nina Maresca saw first hand the level of need for dental care in the extreme remote areas of these Indian reservations. She developed a plan to collaborate with New York University Nursing School to educate advanced nurse practitioners on oral exams and dental hygiene. This includes working together with NYU nursing and dental staff to educate, formulate, and develop an Oral Exam and Hygiene Program that can be taken collaboratively by the two nursing schools to the Indian reservations in AZ. This would bring the oral exams and hygiene education to the individuals living on the reservations and in the remote area and reduce the disparity of lack of dental care. This program will be initiated in June of 2016 during the second trip to Chinle.
A chance encounter a couple of years ago between a Port Richmond woman from Mexico and two Wagner College nurses led to a medical mission earlier this month over Spring Break to a remote mountain hamlet, La Candelaria, on the southern Baja Peninsula. “I was working with nursing student Liz Harrington at El Centro in Port Richmond on a health promotion and education project,” recalled Wagner College nursing professor Nancy Cherofsky. “A woman we met at El Centro, Maria, told us about the tiny village she came from in Mexico, and the name stuck with me: La Candelaria. “Later that year I visited my brother George, a retired New York City firefighter, at his condo in Cabo San Lucas, on the southern tip of Baja California. He had worked with local firefighters to acquire used equipment from the San Diego fire department, and he had gotten to know the area pretty well — including this little village of La Candelaria. “George knew that I wanted to bring a student group down to do some clinical work in the area, so he set up a breakfast meeting for me with the Cabo fire chief, Juan Antonio Carbajal Figueroa. As we were talking, I asked Juan where La Candelaria was. “ ‘It’s right up that mountain,’ he told me, pointing into the hills north of Cabo. And that’s how the Wagner nursing visit began,” Cherofsky said. “Juan made all the arrangements for our clinical work in the area this month, including ground transportation. We couldn’t have done it without him.” Over their Spring Break, 16 graduate nursing students joined Cherofsky on the medical mission to Baja California Sur. Assisted by Chief Carbajal, they made their way from Cabo San Lucas up the 26-kilometer dirt track to the mountaintop settlement of La Candelaria, population 128. The hamlet has a couple dozen houses, a church, a boarding school with about 100 residents, and a small health clinic staffed during emergencies by “bomberos” (firefighters) from Cabo. La Candelaria is so remote that it is “off the grid” with no phone service and no electricity. Power had been supplied to the school and the adjacent health clinic by a generator — but when Hurricane Odile made landfall on Baja California last September, it knocked the generator out of service. A single car battery, recharged from village vehicles or visiting fire engines, provided enough power so that students could do their homework at night — but only for one hour. “Before we left for Baja, the nursing students had raised money for medical supplies — and four new batteries so the students could do their homework throughout the evening,” Cherofsky said. During their visit, Wagner nursing students provided needed health care to individuals — many babies, children and women — who have no access to regular health care. The students also taught health classes to over 95 students, ages 3 to 17, in La Candelaria. And when they came back down the mountain to Cabo San Lucas, the graduate students visited a homeless shelter, where they provided health care to many children, and a senior center with over 200 elders. “It was a busy but sincerely rewarding experience for all of us,” said Cherofsky. “Helping people is addicting!” Wagner College’s Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing was presented with several awards from local officials on this trip for its community work. UPDATE: Damage to the road leading to La Candelaria precluded a trip in 2016 but when repairs are made we will resume travel to this remote village
The Lavelle Charter School is one of the most successful partnerships the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing has formed in the last 5 years. This clinical partnership focuses on health and wellness in students from ages 8 to 16 that attend the Lavelle School. The Wagner College Nursing Students every week educate the Lavelle students on existing and emerging illnesses on intellectual levels that each student at Lavelle in their perspective grade can understand. Numerous topics range from HIV PREP and PEP lectures to high school students to “Nasty Nose Illnesses” lectures in the lower grades to stop the spread of infection. Some of the many topics that have been presented from the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing to Lavelle have been Bullying, Adolescent Depression, “My Body- What’s Happening?”, Zika Virus, STD Prevention, “Healthy Eats”, “Eating Disorders and Hunger”, Skin Disorders, Acne in Teens, Allergies, “Why I May Seem Different”, Smoking Prevention and “Drugs and Other Addictive Substances”. The Wagner Students have been so effective in educating the cohort of students at Lavelle and are so warmly received by the students each week it is gratifying to experience.
This year the students at Lavelle surprised the Wagner Nursing Students with a homemade “Thank You Board” of sincere letters that were humbling and inspiring. The Wagner nursing students each week have been such amazing role models for the students at the Lavelle Charter School. Their role as school nurses delivering primary, secondary, and tertiary care and prevention has been sincerely embraced by all the students at Lavelle. Many of the Lavelle students have stated they would like to pursue nursing as a career. This is success! Remarkably, nearly half of these students have Individual Educational Plans (IEP) which signal the need for special learning, yet they are able to achieve in an active and welcoming learning environment, which is also supported by a collaboration with the college’s Education Department.