Miami University Regionals nursing student finds ways to advocate for patients through language, study-abroad experiences

Alaezsha MayoWritten by Mary C. Dillon for Miami University Regionals

Completing the last three semesters of a college degree virtually during a pandemic can be difficult for just about any student but it could be especially difficult for students in majors that require hands-on experience, like nursing.

"At the start of the pandemic, our classes all became virtual, and we were forced to cancel our clinicals for the rest of the semester," said Middletown native Alaezsha Mayo. "Many students were disappointed about missing out on hands-on experiences. When we returned in the fall, most classes were still virtual, but we were thankfully able to return to clinicals."

Those clinicals gave Mayo and her Miami University Regionals classmates an up-close view of just how challenging COVID-19 could be.

"Students in the nursing program faced similar challenges to those of other students, but we saw the impact COVID was having on the community in a unique way," Mayo said. "We saw and adapted to changes that were taking place in hospitals and promoted health on Miami’s campuses by working at flu clinics and the COVID testing site."

Like all seniors in Miami’s nursing program, Mayo spent her final semester paired with a nurse to complete a preceptorship. She completed hers at Miami Valley Hospital’s emergency department.

"Working in this setting has shown me how important it is for healthcare providers to work as a team, advocate for patients and offer support to patients and coworkers alike," said Mayo. "The past two years have been a whirlwind of change, and so many people have been negatively impacted because of the pandemic. I am incredibly thankful for the support of friends, family and professors for helping me through it."

Coming from what she calls a "large and complex family" – she was born to teenage parents and is the youngest of eight children – Mayo’s love for science and learning about the human body coupled with helping to care for her younger siblings led her to nursing. A love for different languages and cultures led her to double major in Spanish and that led her to two study-abroad trips: one to Argentina and one to Peru.

Alaezsha Mayo with a Miami Flag draped across her shoulders and mountains with snow in the background in Argentina"I enjoy traveling and knew that I wanted to study abroad. Because of my nursing major, I could only go on trips that were offered over J-Term," said Mayo. "The trips to Argentina and Peru were the only trips offered that supported my Spanish major, and they turned out to be some of the best experiences I've had in college."

In Argentina, she developed a close relationship with her host family, took a business course and researched nursing positions in the country as part of a project. The Peru program consisted of historical and cultural studies along with a service-line project, where she volunteered at a local community center with children and older adults.

"In nursing school, the delivery of culturally competent care is often stressed," Mayo noted. "I feel that experiences like these can lead to a unique perspective and an appreciation for other cultures."

Noting that learning another language, especially later in life, is hard, Mayo found herself drawn to Spanish, despite having no one in her family who spoke the language.

"I felt that studying a language so prevalent in our country would help me communicate with a greater number of patients. Better communication leads to more quality and patient-centered care, which are crucial to the field of medicine," Mayo said. "Also, many hospitals and organizations conduct medical trips abroad, which nurses can participate in. I would love to participate in short-term trips on a regular basis and help care for patients in Spanish-speaking countries."

An honors student, Mayo created a pamphlet for nursing students to use in clinicals that contains practical translations of common words and phrases they may use when interacting with Spanish-speaking patients.

"As a nurse, even if you only know how to ask a Spanish-speaking patient what they would like to eat for breakfast, you’ve already made a difference in improving their care," said Mayo. "My hope is that providing students with the pamphlets will help increase the quality of care and allow students to feel more confident and prepared when interacting with these patients.

"I constantly find myself wishing I had more time to study Spanish, but my time is divided between my two majors,” she added. "Although I am nowhere near fluent in Spanish, I plan to keep learning and practicing throughout my life."

"I've had Alaezsha in class and she goes above and beyond what is asked of her in all her endeavors," said Assistant Professor Tricia Neu. "She has excelled in the clinical setting and her honors project brochure will be utilized in hospitals and medical offices and serves a quick reference for common words and phrases found in those settings. She embodies all the attributes of an excellent Miami University student."

Upon graduation, Mayo is hoping to work in an emergency department with an eye toward relocating to the greater Cleveland area.

"Regardless of where I end up, I'm just excited to start practicing as a nurse. After I gain a few years of experience and decide where my passion lies, I am planning on becoming a nurse practitioner," Mayo said. "I am interested in acute care, family and psychiatric specialties, and one day I even hope to become a nursing professor. There are so many routes to take within the nursing profession and it can feel just as overwhelming as it is exciting."

One special person in Mayo's life, her grandmother, Jeanine, predicted she would become a nurse.

"My grandma has been an extremely influential person in my life. She played a large role in raising me during my childhood and I still maintain a strong relationship with her," said Mayo. "She taught me invaluable lessons on finding joy in everyday life, how to treat others and the value of education. I want to use the tools she provided me with to live in a way that both of us are proud of, and to consistently convey how thankful I am to her."