Natalie Bolduc of Dixfield, left, and other UMaine nursing students visited homes in Tirrases, a district in the San Jose province of Costa Rica, to hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste to families.

Natalie Bolduc of Dixfield was one of 15 UMaine nursing majors who spent their spring break providing health care and related assistance to underserved communities in Costa Rica.

Fifteen nursing students from UMaine spent their spring break helping needy people in Costa Rica with health care. Nilda Cravens was nursing faculty adviser.

Natlie Bolduc of Dixfield, right, and other UMaine nursing students pose with a Costa Rican girl they helped. The students were among 15 who spent their spring break volunteering for health care work in the Central American country. “We felt as though we made a big impact on this little girl’s life,” Bolduc said.

UMaine nursing students pose with children in Costa Rica on the recent volunteer trip to provide health care and support to needy families. 

DIXFIELD — UMaine nursing student Natalie Bolduc of Dixfield said the gifts she got from her trip to Costa Rica to provide health care to needy people were “priceless.”

She was one of 15 UMaine nursing majors who traveled to the Central American country during their spring break.

“They aren’t lying when they say nursing is the most rewarding career,” said Bolduc, whose first volunteer trip as a nursing student was to Panama in 2016.

“My experiences in Panama and Costa Rica validated that,” she said. “The amount of smiles and thank-yous I received were the best gifts, and they were priceless.”

Most of the people they saw did not have access to health care and some, including children, were sick, she said.

“Some of the people we visited hadn’t seen a doctor in years,” she said.

The students were part of UMaine Nursing International through International Service Learning, a nonprofit organization that gives students a chance to learn while serving underserved populations.

Bolduc said ISL provided meals, translators, two bilingual doctors and a pharmacist. Nursing students did such tasks as interviewing, taking vital signs, doing physical exams and helping in the pharmacy, she said.

They went to two communities where they visited homes and set up a clinic in each.  

The nurses also visited a school and taught the children primary preventative measures, including oral hygiene, hand hygiene and healthy eating habits.

“We also donated toothbrushes and toothpastes to promote oral hygiene among the children,” she said.

She said she will carry her latest experience throughout her nursing career.

“It is so amazing as a human to be able to make such a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “Nursing is not only a profession, it’s a way of life. Volunteering for me is therapeutic. These experiences will forever be treasured and I know it will only make me a better nurse in the future.”

This summer, Bolduc is spending 10 weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, with 50 other nursing students from around the country.

In the fall, she will be at Rumford Hospital and officially complete her nursing degree in December.

“I’m very interested in rural nursing because there is a lot of potential to make a difference in smaller communities,” she said. “I also hope to do some mission trips in the future.”

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