By: Amanda Gibson
Dalton Fierst, the only male nurse who decided to study abroad, walked to row 27 of the airplane and took a seat as he waited for the plane headed to Managua, Nicaragua to take off on Jan. 4. He sat down quietly.
Upon first appearance, he is an athletically built guy with broad shoulders and a quiet demeanor. On this morning, he was casually dressed with a resemblance of the west coast he grew up on.
The St. David’s School of Nursing at Texas State University was heading to Nicaragua where they paired with International Service Learning to host free clinics in rural communities surrounding the city of Masaya.
Over the course of the next two weeks, the nursing students would split in two groups and provide healthcare to families in four communities who might not receive medical attention otherwise. This trip would serve as a class credit in community health for the 28 nursing students who were about to begin their last semester of nursing school.
The summer before he moved to Round Rock to begin nursing school, Fierst went on a solo adventure to the country of Uganda.
“I wanted to be spontaneous and go on an adventure,” Fierst said. “But I went there because I knew they were a poor country and I wanted to help the community.”
Fierst grew up in Malibu, California, before moving to Kerrville, Texas, at the age of 10. In Kerrville, Fierst found his niche in high school on the football and soccer field.
Upon graduation, Fierst and a group of his closest friends attended Blinn Community College in Bryan, Texas.
While at Blinn he obtained an associate degree in humanities and then decided to pursue his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Texas State University.
This same passion and heart to help the community and people around him is what has caused Fierst to find success in the nursing field, gain respect from his peers and experience the recent trip to Nicaragua.
“I chose nursing because I like to help people,” Fierst said. “I figured this was the best way to go about it.”
Fierst’s passion for the people around him caught the attention of his classmates.
“I think Dalton has one of the biggest hearts and he loves to make people feel good about themselves,” Fierst’s close friend and roommate, Caitlin Ortiz said. “Especially when they are feeling sad, he loves to make them feel better. I think as a nurse that will be good for him because nursing is all about caring.”
Ortiz said Fierst’s demeanor helps make patients immediately feel comfortable opening up to him.
“I think that’s a great strength for nursing because the patients have to trust you,” Ortiz said. “In awkward situations, like when you ask about their last bowel movement or what their pee smells like, if they are more comfortable with the nurse, patients are more likely to tell the truth and get the help that is needed.”
After the first few days in Nicaragua, Fierst knew this trip was where he was supposed to spend his winter break, despite being the only guy on a trip with nearly 40 girls.
“It takes a lot of courage to go against the grain,” Dr. Adriana Hernandez, a dentist and ISL team leader, said. “It’s hard to be different than what society expects.”
Many people may have let stereotypes of the industry and negative connotations toward male nurses slow them down, but Fierst has only allowed this to push him toward further success in the industry.
Community health was the course the nurses were enrolled in for the trip. It is a course that challenges them to go into an unknown community, evaluate the health conditions and then assess and diagnose patients who attended the weekly clinics.
The 28 nursing students split into two groups and each group went into designated communities. They visited families in their houses in order to gather a medical census of the surrounding area and invite them to the clinics.
Residents attended these clinics to acquire medicine for their different illnesses ranging from allergies all the way to a possible case of osteosarcoma-a type of cancer that starts in the bones.
Fierst was the nursing student who spotted this potential case.
He felt what he thought might be growths similar to osteosarcoma on the foot of a young girl. Fierst’s persistence to make sure the doctor made intentional notice of the growths he found led to a referral for the patient to see a specialist.
Regardless of the final diagnosis, Fierst remained humble and viewed this patient the same as all the others he had seen that day, but his care caught the attention of one of his peers.
“I don’t know what textbook he was reading but it definitely wasn’t the one I was,” Sydney Stilwell said. “I would say he got the diagnosis right 99 percent of the time.”
When talking with other nurses in the same clinics as Fierst, all of his peers had a similar review: he was an intelligent nurse too humble to see his own strengths.
“We need less sass and more of Dalton in nursing,” Stilwell said.