When Morgan Clark ’18 joins fellow nursing students for birth simulations in the UNCW School of Nursing Simulation Learning Center next spring, she’ll be at the head of her class, having already assisted with six live deliveries.
Clark, a junior majoring in Spanish and nursing, had the opportunity to aid in the delivery of babies during her summer internship in Guatemala. She volunteered to work at Casa Materna, a maternity clinic in the rural western highlands of Guatemala.
“It was quite an experience,” Clark said. “I watched two or three deliveries before I was the point person for the baby during a birth. Being the first person to hold the baby and hand him to his mom is definitely something I will never forget.”
For more than two months, in addition to assisting with deliveries, Clark took vitals of newborns, gave children vaccinations, and gathered and analyzed data on breastfeeding rates and infant mortality in Guatemala. The internship allowed Clark to obtain valuable, hands-on experience in maternal and neo-natal health and build her Spanish language proficiency.
“It was the perfect mesh of my two majors,” she said. “No one there spoke English, so I was fully immersed in the language. I love learning Spanish. It makes me feel more connected with my patients when I can speak their language with them. I was also working in a maternity clinic, which is exactly what I want to do as a nurse.”
The internship was made possible through Curamericas Global, a nonprofit organization that partners with underserved communities to make measurable and sustainable improvements in their health and wellbeing. The organization works with communities that have some of the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world.
One of Clark’s biggest challenges was not having access to life-saving resources that are easily available in the United States. “I saw many babies die of pneumonia,” she shared. She also had to adjust to the cultural differences and learn how to shower with a bucket of cold water and survive on boiled herbs and vegetables that grew on the mountain.
“I knew what I was getting into, but I really didn’t understand what it was going to be until I was there all by myself,” she said. “It was an entirely different world that I was suddenly adapting to without the ability to talk to anyone about it. This internship is probably the most challenging thing I’ve done.”
Clark has grown as a result of the experience, she said, and she values education even more.
“None of the women in the area are presented with the opportunity to be educated,” she said. “I have complained about school a lot in the past, but now I try to appreciate the fact that I get to wake up every morning and go to class. I am lucky that I am able to do that.”
--Venita Jenkins, UNC Wilmington