James Madison University

Students Start Chapter of NSWB

By: Daniel Vieth '15, '17
Posted: May 4, 2016

As immigration levels continue to rise, global health has become a larger issue, and in turn a growing focus within medical education programs across the nation. This concern for global health is the primary focus of Nursing Students Without Borders (NSWB), a student led, non-profit organization that was started at the University of Virginia in 1999. This semester, students from JMU’s School of Nursing started their own chapter of NSWB under the leadership of Magdalena ‘Maggie’ Rhea (‘16). Through this chapter, JMU nursing students can make a difference in the Harrisonburg community and beyond.

PHOTO: JMU Nursing students

Since NSWB’s inception, the organization has grown to nine chapters, including VCU, Ohio State, Purdue, and now JMU.  “The original mission statement of the organization is to promote health empowerment through education, hands-on patient care, building networks to access health care resources, and distributing donated materials to third world communities,” explained Rhea. “Each university chapter can then enact these goals in whatever way they wish.” This is usually accomplished by raising money for global health programs and funding trips to provide direct services to countries in need. For example, students from the various NSWB chapters have traveled to El Salvador, Russia, and South Africa.  The UVA chapter raised funds to build a clinic in San Sebastian, El Salvador for 15 years that was completed in 2015. The first team of UVA students went there last October.

Rhea was initially inspired to begin a chapter at JMU after she and a group of nursing students learned about the organization at the 2015 Virginia Nursing Student Association conference held at UVA. “Maggie [Rhea] immediately recognized that this organization's’ mission and goal would be a complement to the JMU community,” said Dr. Tammy Kiser, assistant professor in the School of Nursing and faculty advisor for JMU’s NSWB chapter. “She worked for an entire year to obtain the necessary approvals and spark student interest in this organization.” After the event, Rhea kept in contact with students and faculty from UVA, and worked closely with professors and officials to make the JMU chapter a reality. “We were able to essentially start the chapter from absolutely nothing,” said Rhea. “It has been a long journey full of paperwork and meetings, but it was all well worth it!” Rhea is now the current president of JMU’s chapter of NSWB.

PHOTO: Fundraiser for chapter

The chapter’s main goals for their first year were to start the organization and get a group of students involved and participating in activities. Currently the chapter has roughly 45 members, has met multiple times this semester, has held a successful lemonade stand and bake sale fundraiser, and hosted a blood pressure checking event on campus. As the chapter continues to grow, the students plan to host a regional health fair with the NSWB chapters from UVA and VCU as a way to partner with these chapters and the local Harrisonburg community. In addition, the group is planning to fund trips for nursing students to travel abroad. “We will be sending students abroad eventually to do health screenings and educational programs on illness prevention and health promotion,” said Rhea. “We are in the works of planning a potential volunteer service trip to an underserved country by the end of 2016.”

“I see NSWB as a great opportunity for students to become engaged in service to vulnerable populations, both in the local area and internationally,” added Kiser. “This enriches their learning while helping others.”  Describing the need for organizations like NSWB in nursing programs, Rhea explained; “I think it is imperative that as future health care providers, we learn cultural competency early in our career. I’m sure I can speak for the entire JMU chapter of NSWB when I say that we just want everyone to live happy, healthy lives. Although we are young and still in nursing school, we truly want to make a difference in the health status of the world.”