Learning to empathize with what people endure in foreign lands when it comes to health care needs is an important mission, says Courtney McCoy, RN, assistant professor at Oklahoma Christian University School of Nursing.

Hope and understanding – Oklahoma Christian University School of Nursing prepares for mission trips

by James Coburn, Staff Writer

Mission work is expanding to a new destination point for learning for students at Oklahoma Christian University School of Nursing, said Courtney McCoy, RN, assistant professor. For the first time, students will spend a weekend in the mountains at a mission training village established by Harding University in Arkansas.
“They have a big camp and half of it is used for church camps and the other half is their mission training village,” McCoy said.
Seven different training villages simulate seven different countries. They are similar to dwellings one would see by going to a mission trip in that area, McCoy explained.
“Missionaries sometimes go and use it to go and acclimate themselves before going on a mission trip,” she said.
Twenty-eight students of the 31-member junior class are attending the mission training village in April as well as three faculty members. The simulated mission experience will provide an educational experience without the additional cost of traveling out of the country.
“Harding has had it for a while. We just saw it at a mission’s conference and went and checked it out,” she said “So we’re going to give it a try this year.”
Oklahoma Christian has a tradition of outreach. It will continue to send students abroad to Honduras, but the trip is optional for students due to its additional cost, McCoy said about half of the class this year will venture to an impoverished area of Honduras a few weeks after graduation.
“We are excited about the Harding trip just because it gives them a taste of that foreign trip even if they are not able to actually go on the foreign mission trip,” McCoy said.
Mission work helps the students to empathize with the struggles of humanity. Students are enlightened by the challenges and needs of health care outside of the United States. They see how fortunate they are to live in Oklahoma and how different the world can be in other places, McCoy said.
“So I think it helps them in their nursing career to be more empathetic and understanding by being able to see people in more vulnerable positions,” McCoy said. “It kind of makes them more aware of their resources and things that we have here.”
The students spend two weeks in Honduras helping to educate the community. Education is vital for a short-term mission trip, even more valuable than bringing a lot of medications that will be soon depleted.
“So we really focus on empowering them to take care of their own health,” she said. “We give them some tools to do that. So we do a lot of health teaching in the schools and then we basically do screenings like the public schools here do health screenings.”
“We try to do that over there for them, too, and maybe catch things like vision, hearing and heart defects and respiratory problems so that we can get them hooked-up with a doctor early.”
Besides spending time with the Honduran children at school, the students will also spend a day or two in the local hospital to give students an idea how the area facilitates health care. They learn the differences between American medicine and that of a foreign land.
“In the past we have gone to the equivalent of health departments here,” McCoy said. “We work with one major clinic that we coordinate the trip with. The name is Predisan and they are a faith-based clinic with free clinic services or they pro-rate it based on the income of the patient.
“But they have a full service pharmacy and all types of stuff. So we usually try to spend a little bit of time there, too, and get a feel for what they do.”
McCoy said money is the main challenge for the people there being able to access health care and to live a healthy life. Poverty there leads to higher crime rates and violence, which causes the need for immediate medical attention.
She said Predisan is growing with its Healthy Schools Program of having nurses travel to remote villages. The drive often takes about a couple of hours from the clinic to a destination point, many of which are in the mountains without access to what Americans take for granted.
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McCoy is a graduate of Oklahoma Christian and learned from her past experiences in Honduras, she said. She said mission work has instilled in her more of a purpose as a nurse.
“It really helps you stay mindful of holistic care and caring for the whole patient,” she said. “When I go to class and talk about it to my students every day, it keeps it at the forefront of your mind. I feel the need to practice what I preach and so it helps me stay more aware of that.”
McCoy is an expectant mother, so she will not be going to Arkansas this year with the students. Her baby is due on May 15 and will not be going to Honduras as well.
“We’re really excited about the weekend at Harding,” she said.