Group Photo of the Northern Nurses without Borders

Lucy Deters was prepared to provide compassionate care to those in need in the Dominican Republic. But the Ohio Northern University nursing student from Lima, Ohio, wasn’t prepared to receive so much in return.

The graciousness and gratitude of the people she served inspired her to “live a simpler life and be more thankful for the small things,” she said.

Lucy embarked on the medical mission trip to the Caribbean country with Northern Nurses Without Borders, an ONU campus organization that coordinates mission trips with Solid Rock International.

Thirty-three ONU nursing, pharmacy, and allied health students, faculty, and alumni spent May 25 to June 1 in the Dominican Republic operating medical clinics in remote barrios. They served over 750 patients, ranging from babies to a 109-year-old farmer who walked into the clinic on his own to be treated for a rash.

“Teams like ours are the only healthcare access that the people living in the surrounding area have every year,” said Tina Liebrecht, DNP, ONU professor of nursing. “We provide as much care as we are able with the resources and medications that we have on hand.”

Typical health concerns treated by the team include respiratory issues (persistent cough, infections), pain (headaches, body aches), seasonal allergy symptoms, skin rashes, parasites, lice, wounds, and more.

“We provide primary healthcare and assessment, fill prescription and non-prescription medications, and distribute vitamins and hygiene supplies,” said Liebrecht.

Additionally, the team educates the local children on oral hygiene and hand washing, and women on self-breast exams and UTI prevention. They also assist with a construction project. This year they helped dig up gravel and pour concrete curbs and sidewalks for a church.

Northern Nurses Without Borders spends an entire year preparing for the trip. Members raise funds and supplies, learn how to run a rural medical clinic, and receive education on cultural differences.

For students accustomed to the comforts and culture of the United States, the trip is eye-opening, said Liebrecht.

“Adjusting to the extreme heat and humidity without air conditioning can be challenging, as well as cold showers and plumbing issues and the need to drink bottled water.”

The biggest challenge, however, is the frustration of not being able to offer the full extent of healthcare services that many of the patients need.

“We can only work with the resources we have on hand at the clinic,” explained Liebrecht. “We saw a patient at the end stages of her disease, knowing there was nothing we or the physicians could do for her was heartbreaking and really made us appreciate the amenities and healthcare we are so blessed to have in the U.S.”

The trip provides ONU students with invaluable hands-on experience in a challenging medical environment. In addition to being exposed to cultural differences, they learn “compassion, flexibility, and interprofessional collaboration,” said Liebrecht.

“As a nursing major, I will be treating patients from all walks of life and I feel that this trip opened my eyes to how much it can vary in different parts of the world. This, in turn, helped me with a more understanding attitude because I won’t always know what kind of life my patients come from,” said Lucy.

Lucy, who will graduate in spring 2026, noted that her encounters with the warm and open Dominican people deeply impacted her perspective on what matters in life.

“I noticed how welcoming and thankful they were, and the simplicity of the lives they live,” she said. “They prioritize things differently and spend the majority of their time with family and friends and do not worry about the material things in life. They live without running water, functioning toilets, often wash clothes by hands, and an entire family sometimes shares a one or two room home. Yet, they still find joy in each day.”