How Gator Nursing students spend their summer

Although students in the Traditional BSN program technically have the summer off from classes, Gator Nurses always take advantage of any opportunity to learn and grow. These incoming seniors share their experiences from this summer — participating in study abroad programs, volunteering in health clinics and learning valuable nursing skills in externship programs.

Alison Catena – Lima, Peru

UF Global Medical Training participants in Peru this summer.

This August, a few of my fellow nursing students and I had the opportunity to travel with UF Global Medical Training to Peru to work in free health clinics. For a week, we traveled to impoverished towns within Lima and set up clinics and pharmacies, where we ultimately saw over 700 patients and provided them with free health exams and medications. The care we provided was so hands-on and it was amazing to take the “science” of nursing we learned during our first year of nursing school and really start to cultivate the “art” of nursing that comes only with experience. Communicating with the beautiful people of Peru and being able to make an impact in their lives was something I will always hold close to my heart.

Alison Catena and fellow Gator Nurse Hannah Yawman in the community of Juan Velasco, Peru.


Natalie Barnes in Portugal.

Natalie Barnes – Lisbon, Portugal

This July, I had the opportunity to shadow at the CHLO hospitals in Lisbon, Portugal. For a month, I shadowed in a different unit each week ranging from anesthesia to pediatrics. It was amazing to see how welcoming and excited the people of Portugal were to have us there. The doctors and nurses were thrilled to share their knowledge, and the patients appreciated our interest in their health care and culture.  They taught me valuable nursing skills, and they gave me a look at what it is like to be on the other side of a language barrier. Now, I have a greater appreciation of what it’s like to be in a medical setting and not fully understand the language, and this experience will help me be more empathetic with my future patients. Overall, Portugal provided me with an unforgettable experience and showed me the value of cultural competency. The Portuguese people will always have a special place in my heart, and I am forever thankful for all they taught me.


Monica Koehler participating in the UF in Cusco Study Abroad Program in Peru.

Monica Koehler – Peru

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Peru with 13 other UF students on the UF in Cusco Study Abroad Program. As aspiring health care professionals, we were placed in six different clinics throughout the city, where we engaged in various service-learning activities. Over the course of six weeks, we interacted with the local population, translated for tourists, who found themselves in the foreign clinics, and learned about the various health challenges currently facing Peru. Throughout the experience, we designed different projects to improve the quality of health care delivered in the clinics, and at the end of the program, we presented these projects to the International Study Abroad staff, hoping to gain funding through their Pay It Forward program.


Lindzay Reyes – MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

Lindzay Reyes at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

This summer, I had the privilege of being a part of the Professional Student Nurse Extern Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. The program was 10 weeks long, and I — along with 22 other nursing students — was able to experience what it was truly like to be an oncology nurse. I was placed in the PACU and was assigned a preceptor to work with for the summer. We aligned schedules and were required to work three 12-hour shifts a week, which really gave us a feel as to what kind of schedule we will have as RNs. At first, being considered an employee at the No. 1 cancer hospital in the nation as a student was quite intimidating for me and the other students, but it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life, and one I will never forget. I initially misconceived what the PACU was going to be like at MD Anderson. I did not think that it was considered a fast-paced and critical care unit, but I was wrong. We had patients come from all over the world for surgeries that no other doctors would agree to do, but MD Anderson surgeons did. I had the opportunity to care for these cancer patients and was able to practice a variety of skills that I had only ever performed in a lab or read about in a textbook. Some of my responsibilities as a PACU nurse extern was monitoring post-operative vital signs, levels of consciousness, and assure that patients safely wake up from anesthesia. These patients come to us straight from major surgery, and sometimes we would not know whether they were going to be stable. While some patients were easier to manage, others would come in a more critical condition, which required me to think critically and use my nursing judgment to make decisions along with my preceptor. Putting all the things I learned in my first year of nursing school to work really allowed me to become more confident in the clinical setting. I went from not really knowing what to do when we got a new patient and how to correctly care for them, to almost completely taking over their care a few weeks into the program with the supervision of my preceptor. Aside from the clinical experience, we also attended oncology nursing seminars, where we were taught about the pathophysiology of cancer, and approaches that we currently use to treat it. Since I am interested in going into oncology nursing, this program was the perfect way for me to gain experience and learn more about the specialty, and I would highly encourage other nursing students to take a part in these externships during their summer off!

Reyes with her preceptors and other nursing students at MD Anderson.