Members of the School of Nursing spend their spring break in service.

By NU Marketing & Communications Office

Norwich University's School of Nursing’s annual service trip to Costa Rica embraces the opportunity to make a tangible impact through their deep commitment to humanitarianism and experiential learning.

Norwich University School of Nursing Service Trip to Costa Rica

Spring break is normally a time for students to relax, step away from the commitments of campus, and potentially seek out a nice warm location to enjoy. A group of Norwich University nursing students and faculty will use their spring break as a time of service providing medical care for refugees in Costa Rica. This year, 19 students and faculty members from the Norwich University School of Nursing will make the trip. 

The week of service began in 2016 with six students and faculty members traveling to Nicaragua for the initial experiential learning opportunity and has continued to grow progressively each year. Eventually, due to political strife and uncertainty, the volunteer efforts were moved to Costa Rica. The students’ hours will be counted as part of their clinical hours, but that is merely a benefit instead of the focus of the trip. 

The Norwich University School of Nursing’s annual service trip to Costa Rica

The School of Nursing has paired with a local medical missionary group to deliver much-needed supplies and services to the community. In fact, each member of the Norwich expedition is responsible for bringing 100 pounds of donated supplies. The Norwich contingent is bringing 1,900 pounds of basic medication, shoes, clothes, school supplies, and items specifically targeted for the refugees the nursing students will be working with. At the end of the week, any additional unused supplies, including even the bags used to transport the supplies, are left to help provide a continuing benefit to the clinic once the students have returned to Norwich. 

The planning, preparation, and fundraising for the next trip begins almost immediately upon returning. Each member of the travel party must typically raise roughly $2,700 to cover their individual cost of the trip as well as their supplies. This year, the School of Nursing was able to secure some sponsorships to help defray the cost of supplies and travel. The trip begins with a flight to Liberia, Costa Rica where the students will take a one-hour bus ride to their final destination at the clinic, which sits very close to the Nicaraguan border.

The Norwich University School of Nursing’s annual service trip to Costa Rica

The partner medical missionary organization sets aside one week each year in the clinic to be solely run by Norwich's School of Nursing. Refugees live in encampments up to five hours away, and buses are used to deliver the refugees to the clinic for three or four days during the week. Normally, over 100 refugees per day will be helped by the Norwich students. Additionally, one day per trip is set aside to work with local residents. There is also a day reserved for the students to explore the surrounding areas, meet the local residents, and connect with those they have been helping.

A wide range of care is delivered at the clinic. Since there is little to no access to basic medication, many of the medical issues the refugees have cannot be treated early in the process, so they fester and lead to significantly worse outcomes. America’s easy access to steroid creams, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and general preventative medications all but eliminate many of the painful and potentially deadly issues treated at the Costa Rican clinic. Beyond the lack of basic medications, the absence of clean drinking, cooking, and bathing water also leads to many of the refugees being malnourished, dehydrated, and dealing with painful skin infections or diseases. The students will typically care for problems ranging from muscle or back pain up to gastrointestinal or cardiovascular issues. 

Dr. Wood, Director of the School of Nursing, described the week as a profound and grounding experience for the students because it is so different from a typical US clinic experience. She also explained at the end of the trip how faculty and students still wish they could have done more. 

The Norwich University School of Nursing’s annual service trip embraces the opportunity to make a tangible impact through their deep commitment to humanitarianism and experiential learning. Our students are able to further develop their skills and studies through this unique experience while continuing to uphold the founding values of Norwich University. 


About Norwich University
Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in baccalaureate and graduate degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

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