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HCC nursing student sees global needs firsthand

December 03, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

BOONSBORO - Boonsboro resident Katie Beard said she is earning a nursing degree at Hagerstown Community College to help less-fortunate people in developing countries around the world.

"I chose to become a nurse to care for others," she said. "I knew there was a shortage."

Last spring, Beard, 21, visited HIV/AIDS-stricken South Africa for two weeks as a collegiate scholar with the 2007 International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation on Nursing. The program, in part, takes nursing students behind the scenes to let them observe health-care professionals interacting with patients in other cultures.

As a member of the National Dean's List, Beard automatically received an invitation to participate.

She said she would like to revisit South Africa and possibly practice nursing there, despite lower wages and a higher nurse-to-patient ratio than in the United States.

On her trip, Beard said the country's struggle to control HIV/AIDS was the most prominent topic of discussion.

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According to 2000-03 statistics from the World Health Organization, roughly 57 percent of the deaths in South Africa that involved ages 5 and younger were attributed to HIV/AIDS.

Beard said she wasn't allowed to treat any HIV/AIDS patients on her visit.

"I just observed," she said.

Beard was told that people in South Africa are reluctant to get tested for HIV/AIDS because they are afraid of being shunned if they test positive, she said.

After witnessing the way South Africans struggle, Beard said she concluded that Americans take things for granted.

"Little kids were in awe just to have their pictures taken with a digital camera," she said.

In addition to learning more about HIV/AIDS and other conditions in South Africa, Beard had the opportunity to travel to historic sites in and near Cape Town, she said. One of the most impressive stops was her tour of Robben Island prison, the facility where anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

She said some of the cells at the prison were smaller than dog kennels.

Beard said she also saw a traditional healing ritual in a Zulu village and spent three days at Kruger National Park, where she saw lions and elephants in the wild.

Beard said she will graduate from HCC in the spring with an associate degree in nursing and, after that, plans to attend Shepherd University in West Virginia to earn a bachelor's degree.

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