Published August 6, 2021
Victoria Farrell was in her last semester of the School of Nursing accelerated bachelor’s degree in 2018 when she traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., to be part of UB’s global immersion experience partnered with the nonprofit Remote Area Medical (RAM).
For two days, Farrell was among six students providing free medical, vision, dental and preventative care to underserved and uninsured populations through mobile “pop-up” clinics.
“It was an incredibly valuable experience to be given the opportunity to deliver health care services to so many gracious patients and families that were in need,” says Farrell, who spent the weekend triaging patients, obtaining their medical history and vitals, and administering vaccines.
“Many of them waited in line for hours and came from very far distances. They were all so appreciative and it was really quite rewarding to be able to work with them.”
Farrell is part of a rich and long-standing tradition of UB nursing students sharing what administrators proudly describe as profound experiences for participants returning to community-based immersive experiences.
For the past 18 months, COVID-19 played havoc with the School of Nursing’s best-laid plans to continue the RAM field experiences for its students. But this fall — to the great satisfaction of professors, administrators and students alike — more students will get the chance to have those lasting personal and professional experiences.
The tradition continues when faculty and students return to in-person global community initiatives. On Sept. 11-12, UB students will take part in another RAM volunteer program — this time in Olean, where the poverty rate is just under 20%.
“Nursing students will be expected to triage patients, perform physical exams, formulate assessment and plans, vaccinate patients, perform available testing that may be required such as glucose monitoring,” says Molli Oldenburg, clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing.
Oldenburg says the nursing students will be volunteering as family nurse practitioner students and assisting in the medical care of patients under her supervision and that of Linda Paine Hughes, both UB nursing faculty and nurse practitioners, along with other medical providers.
“These experiences offer students valuable opportunities immersing them into new and different clinical settings, which strengthens their autonomy, confidence, physical exam and assessment skills, ability to work as a team and leadership skills,” she says.
The RAM experiences also deepen students’ knowledge of community health and wellness, and they gain practical clinical and cultural experience in diverse environments, according to Oldenburg.
“In the end, their personal experience with the underserved population and health inequities that exist help them to understand the importance of their role in health care.”
Other students share Farrell’s deep appreciation of the experience. One student on the same Appalachia trip talked about truly understanding “the importance and flexibility of teamwork more now.”
The experience differed from the nursing students’ typical hospital setting in providing “growth in working as a team as a result of working with a profession not normally found in a hospital,” according to one student. The nursing students also recognized the importance of the volunteers and other team members as essential. As one commented, “The volunteers who had been with RAM for years — their insight was incredible. Excellent teamwork is the foundation of delivery of exceptional medical care.”
“It takes a village to do what RAM is doing. This experience has taught me that different people with different backgrounds and knowledge are essential to providing care across the spectrum.”
Farrell was so influenced by her first RAM trip that she has signed up for this semester’s Olean experience — this time as a candidate for graduation in May 2022 from the DNP FNP (family nurse practitioner) program. She says she “can’t wait until RAM.”
“I would recommend participating in RAM to anyone that wants to enhance their education at UB,” Farrell says, “and improve their ability and understanding of the importance of providing equitable, sustainable health care services to patients.”