SCF Nursing Program Goes International

(Bradenton, Fla., April 4, 2017) — The RN-BSN nursing program at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) has begun a study abroad program for students who are registered nurses working to get their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Each year the nursing program will teach two classes in Nicaragua while the nurses work with doctors and medical students to provide health care to villagers in rural areas.

The College combined the study abroad with medical relief trips for the first time last year. The program gives nursing students the opportunity for clinical experience with medically needy people, and offers them a variety of cases that are not as common in local hospitals and doctors’ offices. Last year 11 nursing students went on the trip and helped treat nearly 1,000 patients. At the same time they completed two courses toward their degrees.

The study abroad program was so successful the SCF nursing department is planning its next trip for May 20-28 and will make it a permanent part of the program. Last year nursing students completed their community health practicums and the course Communications in Healthcare. This year, in addition to the community health practicum, students will complete their Pharmacology course.  Along with a team of nursing students and medical students from Lake Erie College of Medicine (LECOM), the group includes physicians and other health care providers, two pharmacists and advanced practice registered nurses.

Kathleen Faticone, an SCF graduate and registered nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, joined the study abroad trip last year and completed two courses toward her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). One of her most lasting lessons from the program was about community health and that health professionals shouldn’t be judgmental because you don’t know everyone’s story.

“I grew a lot,” Faticone said. “I did a lot of reflecting and became more aware. I think my interpersonal skills advanced the most.”

She said the villagers were “excited for us to be there.” Each day they would have lines of hundreds of people and many of them would have to wait hours for care. She said each village was a social environment. “People were genuinely kind and loving. Kids would wait patiently and take care of their siblings.” Some of the children were shy, while others wanted to be right next to the nurses watching everything they did.

The students took advantage of the long lines by teaching good health practices, including the importance of washing their hands, drinking plenty of water, dental hygiene and keeping farm animals separate from the family’s living quarters. One of the SCF team members, an RN-BSN student who works as a pediatric nurse, brought a suitcase full of toothbrushes and distributed them to villagers.

While she enjoyed working with the villagers, Faticone said she also liked the interactions with her colleagues and fellow students, and the team approach to care. The nurses, all RNs, made the initial assessments and worked with first-year medical students who relied on their clinical expertise.

Dr. Cathy King, an SCF nursing faculty member who participated on the trip, said the first-year medical students relied on the nurses’ experience and gained an appreciation for their assessment skills and knowledge during the trip, which is a partnership between SCF and LECOM. Dr. Jean Davis, another SCF nursing faculty member will serve as the program director in May.

The program requires the nursing students to do some of their course work as they prepare for the trip, which is considered part of their practicum, and when they return from the trip they are required to do a paper. This is no luxury trip either. The nursing students practice in Third World conditions with a bare minimum of the supplies to which they are accustomed. The clinics – none are air-conditioned and some are just outdoor spaces – do not come equipped with gloves, sinks, masks or even alcohol swabs. Students also are encouraged to bring only carry-on bags for the trip, which is organized by Just Hope and DOCARE International, an organization that has been working with LECOM for the past seven years to bring doctors to Nicaragua. Students also pay the cost of travel, as well as tuition and fees for the courses. Faticone said spending $2,000 on the study abroad trip was a tough decision financially, but the lessons she learned and the rewards she reaped were worth the price.

Students have already registered and are preparing for the trip in May. For more information about the SCF study abroad program, contact King at or Davis at

The medical team performs triage for a villager.

The medical team performs triage for a villager.

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