Nurses for the World
From the beginning, three main goals were at the heart of Goshen
College’s nursing program: that students would graduate professionally
competent, spiritually nurtured and prepared to nurse in overseas
and in-country mission work.
Fifty years later, these goals for graduating nurses remain part
of the program’s goals. Listed among Director of Nursing Vicky
Kirkton’s expectations for graduates during the 2003 pinning
ceremony were: demonstrating exemplary knowledge and skills, learning
continually, living a Christ-centered life and providing culturally
sensitive holistic care.
This country – more ethnically diverse than ever – is
not only experiencing a shortage of nurses in general, but also
a lack of nurses sensitive to cross-cultural needs. Founder of the
Transcultural Nursing Society Madeleine Leininger said, “With
the predicted great increase of immigrants, travelers and employees
from every part of the world, nurses must know ways to care for
or with the culturally different and go beyond treating only the
emotional and physical symptoms or diseases of clients.”
Even before the nursing program offered a bachelor of science degree,
a significant commitment to cross-cultural nursing characterized
the program. In the first class of eight students, four spent significant
time overseas after graduation. A survey in 2001 revealed that around
28 percent of nursing alumni served through Mennonite Central Committee
(MCC), Mennonite Board of Missions (MBE) or Mennonite Voluntary
Behind each is a story about traveling to a new place, tasting new
foods, learning another language and giving care to the sick or
providing preventative health information. But with experiences
to different lands and cultures, come quite varied stories. Some
people fall in love with the place and never want to leave; others
learn and give what they can but are ready to return home; and yet
others decide that what they learned must be told to others so they
can have the knowledge as well. Here are stories of six alumni and
former professors of nursing who have used the philosophy and skills
they learned at GC – around the world and back home again.
From Korea to inner-city USA
When Arline Zimmerman ’54 was a seven year old, she remembers
she “wanted to be a farmer’s wife and have lots of
children when I grew up,” she said. When she turned eight,
her ambitions turned to becoming a nurse and “helping a
lot of children,” which is just what she did – from
Korea to inner-city Philadelphia.
Before attending college, Zimmerman worked at the MCC headquarters
in Akron, Pa., as a switchboard operator, receiving telegrams from
all over the globe. She said that “the world shrunk.”
She headed to Goshen College for training, where she received “a
foundation good for work overseas.”
When MCC needed nurses in South Korea, Zimmerman responded to the
call from 1957 to 1960, serving in a country still struck by a war
that had ended only four years earlier. Zimmerman vividly remembers
the challenges of a very poor economy, the frigid winters and the
sight of starving babies. “I would come back from work and
go into my room and cry,” Zimmerman said.
She found ways, however, to turn a desperate situation into one
of hope. Zimmerman’s name was given by MCC to people in the
United States as a contact for Korean adoptions and she made two
plane trips back to the States, each time with five children to
accompany them on the journey to meet adoptive families.
After spending time in India with the World Health Organization
working with maternal and child health, Zimmerman moved to another
cross-cultural setting much closer to her Lancaster County roots
– south Philadelphia – and worked for 21 years as a
school district health supervisor in charge of 50 schools and a
staff of 33 to 40 nurses.
Retired since 1988, Zimmerman has been busy writing her memoirs
in a series of books appropriately named after the nursing reform
pioneer, The Nightingale Nursing Chronicles. In 2001, Korea Odyssey
was published, in 2002 India Sojourn was released and late this
year her recollections of working in Philadelphia will be available
in School Daze.
Zimmerman gives thanks to God for presenting opportunities to her.
“When I was young, I knew that I was interested in working
with the poor, but didn’t necessarily want to go abroad,”
she said. “But I went wherever the Lord led me.”
Not a job, but a life
Lois Shank Musselman ’53 decided as a child that she wanted
to be a missionary, like her parents, and a nurse. Her mother
died soon after she was born, and “I always felt I had to
take my mother’s place,” she said. Having seen many
photos of India and heard her father’s stories, Musselman
dreamed of going to India someday, too.
To fulfill her dream, Musselman attended Goshen College and received
a bachelor of arts degree in science in 1951, then continued to
study and graduate with the first nursing class in 1953. She married
Glenn Musselman, and the two went to Brazil through Mennonite Board
of Missions. They stayed there for 37 years.
When Musselman left for her assignment, she had visions of doing
full-time nursing in a Brazilian clinic or hospital setting, but
that did not come to pass. Instead, she was doing nursing “when
I was needed or a neighbor called with a sick child.” Neighbors
would call for her help knowing her background. She often treated
children who were malnourished or were infected with worms, and
she was able to save the lives of two babies.
With five daughters, Musselman dedicated herself to her “family
first, then my church and then did nursing in the community as needed,”
She also contributed to the health of the community by teaching
local women to add soybeans to their diets. She had noticed that
soybeans were frequently grown in Brazil, but for export. Musselman
said she recently received a letter from a Brazilian friend who
remembered the lessons about soybeans with gratitude.
Teaching the gift of cultural openness
For Fran Wenger, GC professor of nursing from 1962 to 1990, “transcultural
nursing” is not only her work, but also her approach to
From the time she joined a Mennonite Board of Education three-month
study-travel trip to Europe right after college to her appointment
as president of the Transcultural Nursing Society later in life,
Wenger has woven together nursing, cultures and faith.
During her first overseas experiences, Wenger began to question
some of the nursing education she herself received. “I know
that health is so intricately connected to culture, values and beliefs,”
said Wenger, “so I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied
with the U.S. healthcare system” – which is so often
prone to healthcare expectations that don’t fit individual
On returning to the States, she came across writings by Leininger,
a pioneer in the field of transcultural nursing, and sought her
out as a life-long mentor.
As director of GC’s nursing department in the 1980s, Wenger
lifted up, from the nursing mission statement, “a broad vision
of the importance of culture crossing as a part of the education
of professional nurses.” This meant nursing students learned
about people’s behaviors, values and beliefs as they relate
to health, illness and caring. “I would always direct [students]
to think about and learn that the time they spend with a patient
is so very brief, but that the encounter is influenced by where
the patient comes from,” said Wenger. “I don’t
think you can do nursing well without being aware of this. We have
a responsibility, I would teach, to learn about the major cultures
in which we are working.”
She continues to renew her call – for herself and other health
professionals – to cultural openness, which she defines as
“a lifelong commitment to the quest of transcultural understanding,
cultural self-awareness and continuing development of transcultural
Wenger has continued emphasizing transcultural nursing education
at Emory University’s School of Public Health and the Carter
Center in Atlanta, Ga., specifically building programs that study
and make links between public health, medicine and theology.
“The focus of nursing is a science of caring,” said
Wenger. “The more I learn about caring and the more I continue
on my faith journey, the more I realize they are deeply connected.”
Nursing and SST
From the moment Jani VanPelt ’88 arrived at Goshen College
as a nursing major, she knew Study-Service Term (SST) was going
to be a highlight of the next four years. She had heard from friends
back home in Oregon that it would change her life.
When VanPelt eventually headed to Costa Rica in the spring of 1987
on SST – her first trip overseas – she was very ready.
For her service assignment, VanPelt worked in a hospital. She loved
the job, the people she met and the culture, and promised her host
family that she would be back. “They didn’t believe
me,” she said.
VanPelt kept her promise, though, and returned for several short
vacations after graduating and beginning a first job. But vacations
weren’t enough; VanPelt soon realized that she wanted to stay
longer in Costa Rica, so she worked to have her nursing license
recognized in that country. “I remember the professors talking
about being culturally sensitive to the population you were dealing
with and taking a wholistic approach to nursing,” she said.
In 1996 she headed to the northern Costa Rica town of Guatuso to
work as a supervisory nurse at a clinic, since the public health
system in Costa Rica requires nurses to do a period of service right
after graduating. But the experience was not what VanPelt had hoped
for. She became frustrated when she felt she could not bring about
change in a healthcare environment very different from what she
was used to in the United States. In addition to running short on
gloves and not being able to change bed sheets often enough, VanPelt
said it was “discouraging to watch people stand in line all
day waiting for care and many turned away because we could only
see 40 people in a day,” she said.
She did find love in Guatuso, however, when she met Costa Rican
Juan Jose Jenkins, who would become her husband. Now VanPelt and
Jenkins run an adult foster home in their Oregon residence. She
also works part-time in labor and delivery at Silverton (Ore.) Hospital.
VanPelt uses her second language, Spanish, often with her patients
since there is a large Spanish-speaking population in the area.
She gives extra doses of encouragement to her patients that make
the effort to try and speak English, just like she used to receive
on SST from her host family.
Like VanPelt, Jen Ryan ‘00 had never set foot outside of
the United States when she headed to Costa Rica for SST as a Goshen
College sophomore, and also found that it shaped her future goals
in ways she hadn’t expected. After a very positive experience
abroad, she has returned five times to the country and has plans
to move back for at least a year to volunteer as a nurse.
Ryan works a clinical manager at a community health center in
Elkhart, Ind., working primarily with minority and immigrant patients
- many who have no insurance or are on Medicaid or Medicare. In
this setting, she uses her Spanish - all the time.
After returning from SST, she continued to practice her language
skills with others and on her own. But it was while she worked
with a Cuban doctor for three years, speaking Spanish all the
time, that she became fluent - not only with regular exchanges
of information, but with medical terminology she now uses so often.
“My views have changed on the world and people in general,
especially ways to relate with people from different economic
classes,” Ryan said. Working with other nurses has made
her aware that she “sees people differently,” she
said. “I have more patience, more sensitivity and more awareness
of spiritual needs,” which she feels is directly related
to her cross-cultural learnings on SST and her education at Goshen
Books across borders
Katherine Yutzy, Goshen College associate professor of nursing
from 1972 to 1993, has found ways to continue giving to a community
in India long after she left her mission work at the Dhamtari
College of Nursing.
Knowing that science and nursing textbooks quickly become dated
at Goshen College, and that the nursing college she had served
in India can’t afford many of its own, Yutzy has found a
way to link the two in the broader goal of learning. Since 1973,
Yutzy has been sending GC’s outdated – but still relatively
new – science and nursing textbooks around the world through
Books Abroad, a Mennonite Church USA ministry coordinated by Mennonite
Mission Network. Because Yutzy has a personal connection with
the Indian nursing college and knows their needs, she sends nursing
journals there twice a year, which keeps their library up-to-date.
Yutzy was instrumental in moving Dhamtari College of Nursing from
a diploma school to a college and establishing its library when
she was there from 1965 to 1972.
This summer, Yutzy “made a haul” because the GC nursing
offices and classroom space were cleaned out before the second
floor of Wyse Hall was renovated. She sent 78 books and 43 journals
to India, and helped the GC nursing department “get rid
of stuff and not feel guilty about it,” she said.