Nourishing the Nursing Spirit

Samford nursing and pharmaceutical students in Peru during the 2016 mission trip.

Why nursing? Why not banking or marketing or any of the other majors a student can choose when deciding how they want to spend their working life?

For some, nursing is a job. For others, it's a calling. Those who consider it just a job may change careers after the reality of long shifts, tired feet, paperwork and on-the-job stress get to be too much. But to those who feel called to a career of healing--and who continue to nourish the feelings that led them there--it can be a fulfilling life.

This is something Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing teaches its students through opportunities to experience the rewards of helping those in need. In outreach programs in Alabama, along with mission trips to central and South America, students not only gain experience and help underserved populations--they learn that if they ever need to reconnect with the joy of what made them want to become nurses, all they have to do is reach out.

On campus, the Samford Center for Faith and Health is another resource for nurses who are already established in their careers and even those who may be retired to help them reconnect with the fulfillment of helping in congregational nursing programs through their churches.

Near the tomato fields of Chandler Mountain, about 50 miles north of Birmingham, Samford's College of Health Science has been partnering with Migrant Head Start and the Migrant School in a six-week program each summer to improve the health of migrant farm workers and their families

Professor of Graduate Nursing Cyndi Cortes, DrPH, MSN, MRE, CPNP-PC, COI, is one of the faculty members spearheading the effort.

"Again this year, we're bringing together a multidisciplinary team of students from nursing, nutrition, public health, physical therapy and pharmacy to take screenings and wellness education to migrant families," Cortes said. "The program includes health assessments and general screenings as well as screening of hearing. Our students can also teach the children about nutrition, the importance of protecting their eyes and skin from the sun, and how staying active can help them stay healthy.

"We also offer screening for parents, including blood pressure and glucose levels. If we find something that might need follow-up, we refer them to other health resources. Classes for parents are available at night, which in summer can be rather late, since workers harvesting tomatoes are in the fields until sundown. The classes also include child development, so they will know what to expect at what age.

"Our team also brings sunglasses and caps to help protect the workers from sun, and socks to help them keep their feet healthy in heavy work shoes. The migrant families benefit, and our students gain experience in working with people who are often from a different culture."

Through the years, mission trips to Central and South America have been a long-standing tradition for nursing students and others pursuing careers in health professions at Samford. Once again this year, nurse practitioner students went to Honduras in June, and in July, nursing and pharmacy students are bound for Peru.

Assistant Professor Lora Shelton, DNP, FNP-BC, CNE is one of three faculty members who will be going to South America with them. They will be joining physicians, nurses, a dentist from Peru and others on a mission trip. "Students will participate in medical clinics for five days, providing medical care for common illnesses and health education," Shelton said. "We are taking a large supply of medications, including vitamins and materials for wound care. We will have an eye clinic and will also take reading glasses and sunglasses. Students are paying their way, and some have participated in fundraising to help with the cost."Samford also has a Congregational Health Program. "Most nurses involved in congregational nursing are volunteers, but the value of what they do is becoming recognized to the point that some of the larger churches are considering making it a paid staff position," said Debbie Duke, MSN, RN, who is director of the program."The program started in Baptist churches, but now we have 180 congregational nurses in just about every type of congregation," Duke said. "The work may range from organizing health fairs to going to the doctor with a family experiencing a health crisis.

"For nurses who would like to train to serve as congregational nurses, we have a four and a half day course in a retreat setting, and scholarships are available. There are also annual retreats for congregational nurses where we can keep in touch and exchange ideas."

Another program the center offers to benefit both medical professionals and the community is the EXHALE Conference -Experiencing Hopefulness Admidst Life's Expectations this July 28 and 29.

"So many people seem to be experiencing tough times now," Duke said. "The focus of the conference is how we can find ways to sustain joy even when we are dealing with trials. Hope and joy are so important to staying healthy in body, mind and spirit."


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Chandler Mountain, Cyndi Cortes DrPH MSN MRE CPNP-PC COI, Debbie Duke, EXHALE conference, Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing, Lora Shelton DNP FNP-BC CNE, medical mission, migrant health, MSN RN, Samford, Samford Center for Faith and Health


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