Sanford nurse starts skills fair at hospital in Costa Rica

Jackie Gibbons works with Sanford World Clinic as part of Global Nursing Mentor Program

Sanford nurse starts skills fair at hospital in Costa Rica

When Jackie Gibbons found out she had been chosen to be part of Sanford’s Global Nursing Mentor Program last year, she couldn’t wait to get started.

“I was really interested in learning about the health care culture in another part of the world,” said Gibbons, a registered nurse and clinical educator at Sanford Bemidji.

Becoming a global nursing mentor

Her yearlong assignment was to work with nurses at Hospital Metropolitano in Costa Rica. She had a weekly Zoom call with Felipe Sánchez, her counterpart in Costa Rica, first to determine areas in which she could make the biggest impact, and then to execute a plan to benefit all of the Hospital Metropolitano’s nurses. They decided to host a skills fair.

“I’m an educator. That’s my role, and so having people interested in education is pretty exciting,” said Gibbons. “This was all new for them, and so they were excited to learn. It’s really fun when you have an audience that you can teach to, and that really wants to be there.”

In August of 2022, Gibbons traveled to Costa Rica to host the fair, bringing supplies such as fake mannequin skin, fake blood and even pool noodles to help nurses practice their IV skills. She also helped implement new policies for better patient care at the Sanford World Clinic partner hospital.

“We did a nasogastric tube policy, we did an intravenous policy, and the biggest policy we worked on was the standards of care for the emergency department, which included triage as well,” said Gibbons.

Selfie of Sanford and Hospital Metropolitano nurses at an icy lake's edge in winter.
Jackie Gibbons documents when her colleague Felipe Sánchez sees snow and ice for the first time while visiting Sanford Health in Minnesota.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Gibbons

Experiences of a lifetime

Her experience wasn’t all about work however. Gibbons also bonded with Sánchez and his family. The two have struck up a friendship, despite being approximately 2,500 miles apart.

“His mom invited us over for dinner and she gave me a painting that she painted,” said Gibbons. “Felipe and his family took me up in the mountains to see a volcano.”

In turn, Sánchez also visited Bemidji to learn from the experts at Sanford Health. He was able to enjoy some leisure time during his trip as well, even seeing ice and snow for the very first time.

“He was overjoyed, literally, and I told him he has to come back and visit, and he will not come in the summer. He wants to come in the winter,” said Gibbons with a smile.

‘The highlight of my career’

While her time as a global nursing mentor is now over, Gibbons is still in contact with Sánchez and the hospital. The projects that she helped start continue without her. In fact, Hospital Metropolitano is already planning their next skills fair, which they will now be running themselves.

While her efforts over the past year helped create better care for the nurses she mentored in Costa Rica, Gibbons believes she received just as much as she gave in the past year. She encourages other nurses to apply for future programs as well at Sanford World Clinic locations such as Ghana and New Zealand.

“The program far exceeded my expectations,” Gibbons said. “It completely reignited my passion for nursing. It just blew my mind. Definitely the highlight of my career.”

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Posted In Bemidji, Emergency Medicine, Nursing and Nursing Support, People & Culture, World Clinic