New grad's passion for Spanish and nursing shapes how she sees her future

| Judy Berthiaume

When Amanda DuBall was considering her future career options, she knew she wanted to work in the medical field, but she also wanted to use her Spanish language skills in her work.

“I toyed with the idea of med school or being a physician assistant,” DuBall says. “Over time, I realized that nursing provides me with the most opportunities to directly provide care and connect with my patients through the Spanish language.”

As a Blugold, she’s had multiple opportunities to see up close just how she can bring her two passions — nursing and Spanish — together to make a difference in the world, says DuBall, a native of Rochester, Minnesota, who will graduate in May with degrees in nursing and Spanish.

After she graduates, she will work as a registered nurse on an orthopedic/neurology unit at Mayo Clinic.

However, she also plans to volunteer at a migrant health clinic in Rochester.

Eventually, she hopes to be a travel nurse working in Spanish-speaking countries or regions.

“UW-Eau Claire provided me with countless professional and cultural opportunities to pursue my passions in nursing and Spanish,” DuBall says. “I’m grateful to those who supported my ambitiousness to accomplish as much as I could while in college because it made me more experienced and confident.”

“Nursing and Spanish are more than careers for me. They’re embedded in how I identify myself.”

From studying abroad in Costa Rica to an immersion on a Native American reservation in South Dakota to completing a service project in Ethiopia, DuBall has embraced a variety of experiences during her college career that are helping her better understand other cultures as well as the health care needs of diverse populations.

“I’ve had so many opportunities to dive deeper into my majors and am grateful to everyone who made those experiences possible,” DuBall says.

The study abroad program in Costa Rica was specifically for nursing and health professionals, so while there, students visited urban hospitals and rural clinics to learn about Costa Rican health care, DuBall says.

She had classes during the week but traveled with other students on the weekends to explore the country, DuBall says.

One class focused on medical vocabulary and translating between English and Spanish, and the other class was about the Costa Rican health system, which included tours of hospitals and clinics.

She spent her final week of the program in a rural area in Costa Rica working in a clinic and providing education to pregnant women.

In addition, as part of an international research project, DuBall interviewed nurses in Costa Rica and in the United States. The goal, she says, was to identify the differences in how nurses in each country perceive their health care systems.

While in Costa Rica, she lived with two host families; she returned to visit them during Winterim.

“From the Costa Rica experience, I learned about the importance of relationships,” DuBall says. “I tend to be a very independent and driven person, finding self-worth in my accomplishments. However, when I lived in a society where personal connection outweighs work and achievements, it challenged my way of life and made me reevaluate what I place value on.”

Closer to home, DuBall prepared health education materials to present on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota and worked alongside staff at the Indian Health Services government hospital.

“This immersion opened my eyes to the poverty and mis-education that exists within our country,” DuBall says. “It was a unique experience to see how a government-run hospital functions, but it was alarming to see what facilities and services are lacking on the reservation.”

For example, due to the lack of staff, many units in the hospital were closed, including the labor and delivery unit, DuBall says, noting that pregnant women often leave the reservation to have their child at an equipped hospital.

This creates a cultural and health disparity because women often don’t receive prenatal care and they delay going to the hospital when it’s time to give birth, increasing the risk of a complicated pregnancy and delivery, DuBall says.

In March, DuBall again was part of a health-care related international immersion, this time working to get menstruation kits and information to teenage girls in Ethiopia.

For this project, she researched cultural practices in Ethiopia related to menstruation, and created a lesson plan tailored to their health and sanitation needs, she says, adding that she gave away about 50 kits while there.

“This work is important to me because I am a strong advocate of education and vaccination to prevent diseases from occurring instead of relying on treatment,” DuBall says. “The teens needed accurate information to resolve the myths that they’ve been told. For example, many girls are told by their elders that it is unsafe to shower while menstruating. This is untrue and in fact poses a risk for infection since warm and damp areas are ideal for bacteria growth.”

While the educational component was most critical, DuBall says it also was rewarding to find that the teens were eager to interact with them.

“Although we didn’t speak the same language, we made lifelong connections,” DuBall says.

All these experiences, she says, will help her better meet the health care needs of her future patients.

“The experiences enhanced my cultural competence and will improve my care for patients from any background,” DuBall says. “We always stress the importance of providing holistic care, which encompasses the entirety of the patient’s physicality, emotionality, mentality and spirituality.

“By having greater cultural competence, I’ll better understand how to care for others and be more cognizant of asking appropriate questions. How diseases are perceived, who is allowed in a patient’s room, dietary restrictions and spiritual rituals all must be considered when caring for the overall health of my patient.”

Her varied experiences as a Blugold also have her thinking a little differently about her future career path.

“Before I’d focused all my plans on helping the less fortunate outside of the country,” DuBall says. “But my experience in South Dakota has opened up the possibility of being a travel nurse within the U.S.”

The experiences also are changing how she sees herself, DuBall says.

“I believe people need to experiment with their comfort zone to grow as a person and develop a more sophisticated perspective of the world,” DuBall says. “Through purposeful travel, I’ve gained greater respect for others, increased my patience, and learned to never stop seeking out new opportunities. There are worlds of culture out there that I haven’t explored, but I plan to.”

In May, DuBall will enjoy one more experience that is important to her — she will follow in her mother’s footsteps when she crosses the stage in Zorn Arena during commencement.

Her mother, Mary Klanderman (now DuBall) earned her degree in nursing from UW-Eau Claire in 1987.

“The compassionate and empathetic spirit that my mom exudes daily, inadvertently impacted my choice to attend UW-Eau Claire,” DuBall says. “I’m proud that my mom and I are getting our degrees from the same university. I hope to be as considerate a nurse as she is.”

Thanks to her mom, the annual nursing pinning ceremony also will be extra special, DuBall says.

“The pinning ceremony is a historically significant event, which honors the brotherhood and sisterhood of nurses,” DuBall says. “My mom’s pin was engraved with her initials in 1987, which she wore on her RN badge.

“She gifted it to me, and it’s now engraved with my initials and the year 2019. Now I can place it on my badge and carry on the legacy.”

Photo caption: Amanda DuBall plans to use her passions for nursing and Spanish to help meet the health care needs of diverse populations.