Stevenson Nursing Student Spends Summers Providing Aid to Underserved Populations Abroad

October 16, 2015 7 AM

Stevenson University nursing student Vanessa Perez ’18 is taking the term “field experience” to a whole other level—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

During each of the last two summers, Perez, a sophomore, volunteered with Mission to Heal, a nonprofit global medical missions agency that heals underserved people and trains local practitioners in the most remote and needy areas of the world. In the summer before her freshman year, she spent more than two weeks in Liberia. Prior to the start of the fall 2015 semester, Perez spent more than three weeks in Mongolia.

While in both locations, she worked hand-in-hand with the organization’s medical staff to aid in a variety of procedures from plastic surgeries on individuals with congenital disorders to skin treatments for burn victims. Now, Perez is able to relate her experiences back to what she’s learning in the classroom. Additionally, working with high-risk populations in a high-stress environment has given her a direct preview of what it’s like to work in the nursing field.

“The fact that I was placed on the spot to help someone in need helped build my courage and gave me confidence in what I was doing,” Perez said. “This will be a vital skill once I become a nurse.”

“Her experiences have helped her learn to develop nurse-patient relationships, particularly with patients from a different culture,” said Stevenson Nursing Instructor Rebecca Diaz. “That knowledge is so important for nurses today because our patient population is becoming more diverse. Vanessa has also gained a greater cultural sensitivity through her mission experience.”

Although she hopes to become a nurse practitioner after securing her degree, Perez said that she wants to continue carving out time each year to support Mission to Heal. Helping the less fortunate is something she has been passionate about ever since visiting her native Colombia at age 15. It was there that she witnessed the plight of underserved communities that are without the basic medical care that many take for granted.

“Whenever I help someone in need I always feel like being in the medical field was what I was meant to do,” Perez said. “I feel so much self-satisfaction in knowing that one simple procedure or one simple helping hand goes a long way for someone in a developing country.”

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Stevenson University, known for its distinctive career focus, is the third-largest independent university in Maryland with more than 4,400 students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, and adult bachelor’s programs at locations in Stevenson and Owings Mills.