Nursing Student Brings Tanzanian Peace Corps Experience to USF
In early February, Karra Rutherford was working as a Peace Corps health extension volunteer in a small village in central Tanzania when the coronavirus pandemic abruptly ended her overseas work.
With her two-year assignment on the African continent cut short, Rutherford returned home to the Tampa Bay area in search of her next adventure.
She wanted to build on her global experience while continuing to have a positive impact on a community’s health outcomes.
Rutherford found her new path at the USF Health College of Nursing as the college’s latest Paul D. Coverdell Fellow, a fellowship program designed for post-Peace Corps volunteers who want to transition into nursing.
“As a nurse, you’re in a position where you can have a big impact,” she said.
She hopes to take the lessons from her community health and outreach experiences in Tanzania and apply them to a career as a global-minded nurse.
With a bachelor’s degree in biology and experience as a research lab technician, Rutherford said she was drawn to the differing skills a nurse needs to serve patients.
“Health has always been my main interest and focus,” she said. “I have always preferred to do health-oriented volunteer work.”
While in the Singida region of Tanzania, Rutherford’s duties involved community motivation and organization, including starting informal community groups to discuss topics such as health education, nutrition, and water sanitation.
She also worked alongside the health care workers in the village’s clinic. That experience opened her eyes to the differing roles of nurses.
“I got to see the impact that they had on a lot of people and in the community,” she said.
Rutherford said one of her biggest takeaways from her time in the Peace Corps was how the lessons she learned in a village in Tanzania could be applied to situations in the United States.
“When you’re working in a clinical environment, someone could have a vastly different background and experiences than you, and it’s important to keep that in mind,” she said.
She plans to share her global perspective with others and fulfill a commitment among returning Peace Corps volunteers to strengthen America’s understanding of the world and its people.
Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing