Amanda Werling ’14 was a sophomore in Valpo’s College of Nursing and Health Professions when she spent six weeks working in the emergency room of a small health center in the village of Engaruka, Tanzania. The journey that would lead her halfway around the world and strengthen her decision to pursue a future in health care began many years ago.
“My grandma had a stroke when I was in first grade,” she explains. “After that, I spent summers with her, and I realized how much I like to care for people. As a witness to the recovery process, I realized the difference medicine makes in people’s lives.”
Lynette Rayman, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, encouraged Amanda to pursue a study-abroad opportunity in Tanzania to help doctors treat illnesses and assist in occasional surgeries. As a life-long Lutheran and recipient of a Valparaiso Lutheran Leaders Scholarship, she had always believed in the connection between faith and healthy living. However, she had no idea how much witnessing differences in health care would challenge her both mentally and spiritually.
Describing the hospital, Amanda recalls scenes she witnessed daily. “People lined the halls waiting for help but were unable to pay for treatment. After doctors told them to leave the hospital, the patients would sit in the street along the side of the building,” Amanda says.
Amanda knew leaving those patients to suffer unattended wasn’t right. So when she encountered a young boy outside the hospital bleeding and struggling to hold himself upright, she took him back into the hospital and insisted he be seen by a doctor.
“The small boy was stumbling out of the building, and then he collapsed,” Amanda says. “I told the nurse I was working with, ‘He’s not OK, and he’s not going to be OK, and you need to do something about it’.”
The boy was brought back into the hospital and treated by doctors. But the experience, Amanda explains, was just one of many in Tanzania that helped her realize the importance of proper emergency care for all people, regardless of who they are or where they live.
“Traveling abroad and working in the ER taught me to fight for those who have no one to fight for them,” Amanda says. “I realized I love the intensity of treating so many different people in a variety of situations.”
It’s these challenging, cross-cultural experiences that Professor Rayman knows are so valuable to students who seek a profession in health care.
“Studying abroad is an excellent way to see cultural, financial, and ethnic differences that enable students to start to empathize with and understand their patients and families in whatever area they chose to practice,” Professor Rayman says.
“When working as a nurse, it is crucial to remember that you have an impact on patients and families during both the lowest and highest points in their lives,” Professor Rayman continues. “Showing empathy and understanding the situation differentiates a good nurse from a great one. Amanda will be a great nurse.”
For Amanda, the experience Valpo provided her played an integral role in reinforcing her passion for a career in health care, and she hopes to one day return to Tanzania.
“The ER is where my passion lies,” Amanda says, and she knows her experience at Valpo gave her the foundation she needs to pursue her dreams.
“The College of Nursing and Health Professions prepared me for the future by educating me in all aspects of life, including the spiritual, altruistic, and medical aspects,” Amanda says. “It is my faith that has taught me to serve,” Amanda explains, and it was her experience abroad where she found her true purpose.