Megan Shumway recently took the meaning of “Growing Good” international. The Olean High School graduate and recipient of the John J. Murphy, Pat McGee Nursing and Thomas and Robert Smythe scholarships recently took a very special trip to Tamil Nadu in India as part of her nursing program at Gannon University. We had the chance to catch up with her, and she had so many amazing things to say about the experience that we decided to include them all here. We are so proud of Megan and glad that we can play a role in making possible such an experience.
CRCF: Can you tell me a little about the purpose of your recent trip to India?
MS: The purpose of my trip to India was to learn about leadership and to experience nursing from another culture. The trip is part of a five-year grant with Gannon University and the Sacred Heart College of Nursing in India. Gannon is paired up with this college in India and provides them with nursing supplies such as glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, gloves, alcohol wipes, laptops, computers, etc. It’s really a great opportunity. They also hold monthly Skype sessions and do some teaching and learning about diseases throughout the year. The application process for this opportunity required writing an essay which was scored, and then eight nursing students were selected by the nursing faculty. The purpose of this trip for the students is to experience another culture of nursing and become more aware. We also got to help members of the village we were in by hosting a health camp providing free health care.
CRCF: What were some of your general impressions of the country?
MS: India is a very beautiful country, and the people and culture are just as beautiful. I especially fell in love with the culture. Coming from the United States, which is known as a melting pot country, it was amazing to see a country that upheld its own core traditions. Unfortunately, the area we visited was very impoverished. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. The water isn’t safe to drink there and it’s very scarce. There is little technology, and living conditions are very different from what we are used to here. The area we visited didn’t enforce any driving laws either, so that makes for a fun road trip!
CRCF: What experiences during the trip really stuck out to you?
MS: I guess the things that stuck out to me the most were just the differences between there and the United States. The students do not have cell phones because they cannot afford them. Women don’t have rights there. The area we visited had no televisions or social media of any sort. There is no warm water for showering (if you even have enough water to shower). Everything I experienced just made me so much more culturally aware and thankful for the things I have.
Some other info about the trip that you might be interested in:
-We stayed at the nursing college in dorm style rooms to experience what the nursing students in India experience.
-We got to see what community nursing was like by going to clinical with the students and into people’s homes in the community.
-We got to see four different hospitals: government (free), private (you pay for), a psychiatric hospital, and an outpatient surgery center.
-We held a free health camp for a village of 5,000 people and did blood pressure screening, weights, heights and blood glucoses. Most people in the community are living with diabetes and hypertension and never even know due to the lack of healthcare resources.
-We got to learn about their religion of Hindu and visit a famous Hindu temple in the city of Madurai.
CRCF: What was it like coming back into the states after that time away?
MS: I think that it’s safe to say that we all came back to the states with a different outlook on what we have and on life in general. Coming back I was most thankful for safe drinking water, beds, washing machines and the opportunities I have here. It’s amazing to leave a place and come back and be thankful for something as simple as water. Living in the United States all of my life, I knew things were difficult elsewhere, but I never knew exactly how difficult things were. I am so very appreciative of everything I have, even more so now. I’m thankful for my education and a home to live in, things that I think we most often take for granted.
CRCF: What did the trip mean for you in your development as an aspiring medical professional?
MS: As an aspiring nurse, this trip was incredible. To experience a side of nursing most people will never see was the opportunity of a life time. Things are so different in India, there are very small amounts of pharmaceuticals. Instead of prescribing medication they use cooking and diet as treatment for certain diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. And believe it or not, health care at the government hospitals is 100% free. There is no cost to the person. Nurses there do what most doctors do here. It really is very different. Taking away from this experience as a nursing major I felt the need to really advocate for my patients even more so than I already do. Patients in India don’t necessarily have anyone to advocate for them to the doctor and seeing that broke my heart. This experience also made me want to see what nursing is like in other countries and possibly go abroad when I have my degree and am a registered nurse to help those less fortunate than me. It was the most amazing feeling to help these people at the health camp. I finally felt like I was making a difference in someone’s life.
CRCF: Do the scholarships you’ve received from the Community Foundation help you be able to take advantage of opportunities like this?
MS: Most definitely! Thanks to the scholarships I have received from Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation I have had the opportunity to do many things at Gannon University that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue, otherwise. I am forever grateful for the scholarships from the Community Foundation and the support the foundation gives me. The scholarships have covered educational expenses which allowed me to pursue the Gannon travel program and help with out of pocket costs for the India trip. Without the support of the foundation none of this would be possible. I am having the experience of a life time, all thanks to the assistance I receive from the foundation. Thank you!