Global health is a passion for Linda Mendonca, a recent graduate of Rush’s Advanced Public Health Nursing program. As a school nurse for the past 20 years, Mendonca observed an increase in the number of global immigrants attending Rhode Island public schools. These immigrant children often need the school nurse’s help in transitioning to the American classroom.
Following her passion, Mendonca collaborated with Partners in Development, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports community development in the Caribbean and Central America for part of her Rush Advanced Public Health Nursing practicum experience. Mendonca’s residency capitalized on her experience as a school nurse. She traveled with Partners in Development to Guatemala where she assisted with a study on a public health concern of the village health clinic: parasite re-infections in school children. Mendonca also developed a well-child assessment protocol for the clinic that serves over 220 children, adapting it to the health concerns and culture of the village. “As a school nurse, it was an awesome experience to see what it was like on a typical school day in Guatemala. The structure is different; it is more chaotic than American schools with limited resources, so when the children move to the US they have to adjust to rules and calm their behavior to fit in.” Mendonca focused on this acculturation of immigrant children and how school nurses should ‘educate the educators’ to assist with the process of culture transition. “My experience in Guatemala validated my theory that children have a hard time conforming to psychosocial issues because of cultural differences. Cultural sensitivity needs to be a part of education and school nurses should be involved in implementing this.”
Mendonca’s education in the Advanced Public Health Nursing program helped her build a case for incorporating cultural sensitivity and she brought this case to school administrators, as well as to the community and school committees. “The quality of education at Rush was superior. Looking back on my time as a student, the public health nursing program was challenging, and makes you think about things differently and work through the problem.” As a recent graduate, Mendonca expects to transition into a leadership position within a school system to further affect change.