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Learning Skills Abroad to Serve Patients at Home: SLU Senior Gains New Perspective on Nursing at SLU-Madrid


Thanks to studying abroad, Conner Gibson is preparing to take the language skills and global perspectives they gained forward into a career in nursing.

Conner Gibson

After graduation, soon-to-be alum Conner Gibson will begin a nursing residency at HCA Houston in its medical intensive care unit. They want to put their nursing and language skills to use serving the city’s Spanish-speaking residents. Photo by Ellen Hutti

A senior nursing major with an interprofessional education concentration, Gibson served as a SLU 101 leader, nursing and Spanish tutor, peer instructor in nursing courses, and as a Health Resource Center Nurse Practitioner Lead during their time at SLU. Gibson represented their fellow students in the School of Nursing in the Student Government Association (SGA) as a senator and was selected as a member of 2019’s Spirit of the Billiken Class.

As they get ready to graduate, Gibson said the chance to study abroad at SLU-Madrid was the highlight of a memorable college career.

“The professors provided me with guidance and support as I navigated challenging nursing courses like pathophysiology and pharmacology while also living my life in a foreign country,” Gibson said. “It was so cool combining my passions for nursing and travel as I studied cardiac medications on a train to Vienna, or as I discussed the U.S. health care system with strangers-turned friends in a hostel in Switzerland.”

Getting a Global Perspective on Care

The Barrington, Illinois native relished the challenge of learning medical Spanish while taking time to enjoy Madrid’s sunsets, navigating its Metro system and exploring the city’s El Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple transplanted to Spain.

 “Having a global perspective as a nurse has been valuable in the way that it has exposed me to foreign health care systems and allowed me to think critically about our own shortcomings and successes,” Gibson said. “Having additional perspectives that come from both the domestic and foreign health systems allows me to innovate in a way that other nurses are unable to.”

Finding a Common Language by Putting People First

Stepping into health care outside the United States also reinforced the Jesuit value of cura personalis that Gibson and other Billikens learn in their SLU classes and by taking part in campus life in St. Louis and Spain.

Studying at SLU-Madrid, Gibson grew to appreciate the challenges people who can’t speak a country’s dominant language face when trying to access health care, particularly Spanish-speaking people interacting with health care systems in the United States.

After graduation, Gibson will begin a nursing residency at HCA Houston in its medical intensive care unit. They want to put their nursing and language skills to use serving the city’s Spanish-speaking residents.

“I view my patients as complex, multi-faceted people,” Gibson explained, “and I consider not just their medical diagnoses, but the things that bring them joy, their family dynamics and their spiritual practices as I provide care to them. Studying in Madrid reinforced the need to do this by opening my eyes to linguistic differences that affect health literacy and a patient’s ability to manage their chronic conditions.”

“As a result of studying at SLU and SLU-Madrid, I am a more well-rounded nurse who treats patients holistically.”

In the lead up to graduation, SLU is sharing some of the stories of its graduating seniors as they look back on their college experience and ahead toward their next steps.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.