Abroad experience forges path to nursing anthropology


Ashley Moreno was attracted to the Global Health Field Course mainly because of its location.

“I hope to work in Africa in my future career, so for my study abroad experience I wanted to initiate myself with an African culture,” Moreno said. “I loved the course in Rwanda, and I loved all the people. I also chose this course, because of the outlined objectives with infection prevention and control, as well as community involvement with mother and children about nutrition.”

“With my desired focus in nursing and anthropology as maternal and infant care, I was very interested to see how a different country monitored their childbirth practices in regard to infection prevention and control, as well as learn about the nutrition programs that were available for mothers and children.”

Moreno was able to utilize both her knowledge in nursing and anthropology for this cultural experience.

“Being fully immersed in the Rwandan culture directly reflected my goals to integrate and communicate with cultures to help with health practices,” Moreno said. “Many issues arise when programs trying to assist cultures completely bypass the pre-existing ways of life and cultural practices, including those in health care.”

Additionally, Moreno said she enjoyed the step into health care abroad that directly related to her goals to practice internationally as a nurse.

“Health care systems are structured differently across the globe, and I was excited to learn about the health care system in Rwanda,” Moreno said. “As a nurse anthropologist, my goal is to help lower infant mortality rates in developing countries. This experience in Rwanda gave me a first-hand look at the baseline of the health center structure, infection prevention and control, and how Rwanda is working towards accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals. I greatly enjoyed working with and learning directly from the Rwandan people and hope to be able to work with just as amazing people in the future.”

Among the many highlights, according to Moreno, one included the observations they conducted on infection prevention and control at a local Kigali health center.

“Being able to walk around the health center, visit different sections, and ask questions to the nurses and practice health care providers allowed me to fully comprehend the functioning of their health care system,” Moreno said. “I think the best way to understand health care in another country is to observe or experience it in a local institution.”

“I was also absolutely amazed with the kindness of the people, especially the wonderful cooperative of women during the Azizi Life experience. During this amazing cultural immersion day, we lived the life of rural women in Rwanda by helping with the tasks of their typical day, eating a wonderful lunch of food from their personal garden, and making bracelets out of banana leaves. I was also able to participate in community service activities such as helping move dirt used to build a home in a community, collecting food donations and serving hot meals to hospital patients, and donating clothes to impoverished women in need taking shelter just outside a health center.”

“I also loved learning about the incredible culture and how the people have grown immensely from their past. This whole experience proved to be very humbling and is now helping me truly appreciate many things in life that should not be taken for granted.”

According to Moreno, this experience helped her work toward her goals of being an internationally traveling nurse by giving her a glimpse of the structure, services, availability, and struggles of health care in another country.

“Like many other African countries, Rwanda’s health care system must accommodate their medicinal practices with a lack of resources, staff and supplies,” Moreno said. “As a nurse working in different parts of the world, I need to learn to adapt to the different environments of health care facilities and be able to practice nursing skills with what’s available.”

“I was grateful to see all the wonderful services that were offered at the Cor Unum health center such as HIV treatment and prevention, as well as nutrition, maternity, lab, wound care, and immunization services,” Moreno said. “I may need to learn and modify my idea of typical nursing practice while practicing abroad, but I definitely still want to work in many different countries and cultures throughout my career, specifically with mothers and infants. “