|University of Memphis student Francis Jordan rests on the front deck of her “home”
in a safari camp in Kenya. Jordan is completing a relatively new RN to BSN online
degree program offered by the Loewenberg School of Nursing without ever leaving Africa.
University of Memphis student Francis Jordan doesn’t surf the Internet to get her
daily dose of adrenaline — she just takes a peek outside her window.
“My very first night, I looked out at 4 a.m. and several lions had taken down a water
buffalo,” says Jordan. “And it is not uncommon to see elephants wandering through
Jordan works at a rural health care clinic in Kenya, providing health care for the
Maasai tribe. But as night falls over the Masai Mara Wildlife Refuge, a simple click
of the mouse means Jordan assumes the role of U of M student.
Jordan is enrolled in a unique RN to BSN online degree program offered by the U of
M’s Loewenberg School of Nursing (LSON)that allows students to maintain their jobs
— even those thousands of miles from campus — and earn their degrees.
“You can go to work, come home, cook dinner, put your pajamas on and go to class,”
says online program director Gerri Gass. “The great thing about the program is that
you can continue your career and go back to school at the same time. Many hospitals
aren’t willing to take their nurses off the floor and send them to classes, though
they will provide them financial support to help them take online courses.”
Students come from nine states, including Montana and Washington. The program has
been “bursting at the seams” since it debuted in Fall 2009, she says, having grown
about 160 percent since then.
Gass says most health care facilities will require nurses to be BSN-prepared in the
The online courses also help the LSON, which has had to turn away hundreds of qualified
applicants because of overcrowded facilities. A capital campaign is expected to provide
funding for a combined new state-of-the art facility for the LSON and the School of
Communication Sciences and Disorders in the next few years.
Jordan is able to take classes online from the tent she calls home in a safari camp
in one of the world’s most famous wildlife refuges. She videotapes a part of the course
that requires her to demonstrate health assessment skills and emails it back to
U of M instructors.
From the door of her tent, she says she has a “gorgeous view” of the Masai Mara, which
borders the Serengeti. The camp she lives in has Internet access and other modern
amenities such as flush toilets. But the health care clinic she helped open in 2008
is a different story.
First, she has to travel about four miles by motorcycle to reach the remote village.
“It is like going from a First World country to a Third World country,” she says,
in describing the difference in the safari camp and the health care facility.
“The clinic doesn’t have electricity or running water,” she says. “We have delivered
babies at night with the use of flashlights or lanterns.”
The clinic serves the Maasai tribe, a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people.
The Maasai are known for their distinctive customs and dress. The clinic is a non-government
operated health care facility operated by Africa Mission Services.
The clinic has six maternity beds and a solar power system, but Jordan believes electricity
will be coming to the area soon. She helps administer immunizations, tests for malaria
and provides prenatal care.
“Infection is a major problem. They drink non-pasteurized milk and they cook in their
huts with no ventilation.”
The clinic is raising money for a surgery and dental ward.
Jordan spends her off-time photographing the Maasai as well as the area’s wildlife,
which includes all the big cats, giraffes, elephants and rhinos.
What took her so far away from Tennessee?
“I was interested in doing work overseas. I came here and fell in love with it.”
— by Greg Russell