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Nursing students to provide health care on Lac du Flambeau Reservation

RELEASED: March 16, 2010

Dr. Cheryl Lapp
Dr. Cheryl Lapp

EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Cheryl Lapp, associate professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, believes it is important for nurses to work with people from different cultures. That belief led her to arrange for six UW-Eau Claire nursing graduate students to provide health care at the Lac du Flambeau Reservation for six days during the students' spring break.

The nurses, who will leave Eau Claire March 28 and return April 2, will work at the Peter Christensen Health Center for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. They also will work with a nurse practitioner who serves families on the reservation and will accompany a community health nurse on home visits.

"There is a dire need for nurses to have the experience of working with other cultural groups," said Lapp, who will accompany the students. "Immersion experiences like this go a long way in breaking down stereotypes, heightening awareness and helping nurses develop more skill in communicating with patients who are different from themselves."

The students will stay near the reservation and learn about the history and culture of the Chippewa at the George W. Brown Ojibwe Museum and through a guided tour of the Waswagoning Indian Village.

"The experience of being immersed in another people's culture can't be duplicated in the traditional classroom setting in terms of richness and scope of learning," Lapp said."Being immersed in a culture is very different from traveling to a place as a tourist."

The graduate students will leave their cell phones and everyday lives behind and really focus on the culture and environment of the reservation, Lapp said.

"The students will have to step into someone else's world," Lapp said. "They will learn the importance of respecting elders and they will learn a lot about family-centered care."

This is the second trip to the reservation Lapp has made with nursing graduate students. The previous trip was funded through a grant from the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. However, no funding was available for this trip, so the students covered the cost of the trip themselves.

"There is a definite interest in participating in this immersion experience," Lapp said. "More than a dozen students wanted to make the trip but we can only accommodate six at a time. We certainly hope to be able to do this again and to find funding so every student, not just those who can afford it, can participate."

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KH/DW

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