Nursing Professor Grateful for Chance to Help Lead Medical Mission Trips

Dr. Faith Claman, associate professor of nursing, volunteered for her first medical mission trip when she was 18, an experience that helped chart her career path as a pediatric and women’s health care nurse practitioner. She’s now racked up more than 30 years of experience delivering health care to vulnerable populations here and abroad. She even celebrated her 50th birthday with a mission trip to Peru! On the home front, she maintains a practice at the Arlington Health Department and the Arlington Free Clinic.

For Marymount nursing students, Claman’s experience gives added dimension to their service learning trips as she deftly helps them navigate unfamiliar circumstances. Claman, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke, a master’s from Yale and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Case Western Reserve, has led students on trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in this hemisphere. They provide services like prenatal home visits with expecting mothers, mobile clinics, diabetes education and pop-up health clinics in people’s bedrooms and kitchens, often in homes with dirt floors. The immersion experiences give undergraduates and graduate students the chance to live, learn, and work together.

“They all bring different strengths and assets they don’t even know they have until they get there,” Claman says. “They’re improvising, creating and developing ways to deliver compassionate and evidence-based care from a makeshift environment.”

This can include using elastic gloves as tourniquets when drawing blood, hammering nails in walls when IV poles aren’t available to hang fluid bags from, or hanging sheets from the ceilings in old schools to provide private areas for gynecological exams.

Claman and a Marymount team return to Nicaragua each summer. She loves the patients and staff there, and working alongside students, especially during the ‘aha moments’ when they fully understand what it means to give service to others and make a difference in their lives.

“I come back every year and feel transformed,” Claman says. “The students impact my life tremendously, and I feel grateful that I get to experience this.”