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Northeastern University

Paula Prescott Hart, N’69

Paula Hart wanted to combine her study of nursing at Northeastern with her love of travel. The journey she took in 1968 made her part of co-op history.

After submitting to the dean what was at that time a unique co-op proposal, Hart was on her way to becoming the first Northeastern student to complete an international co-op in nursing.

Hart left Boston for the province of Córdoba, Argentina, in 1968, and awaiting her there were a new host family, a new culture, an unfamiliar language, and highly challenging working conditions. Taking her place as an operating nurse in a small clinic, Hart knew she had to adjust quickly. “I didn’t speak Spanish, and had no training in the operating room. This was all part of the learning process,” says Hart. “I learned to speak Spanish and I learned the names of the surgical instruments. I became a fast learner!”

It was her earlier co-ops that had given Hart the confidence to pursue the challenge abroad. “At [what is now] Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I had supervisors who exposed me to new opportunities. They wanted you to work to your best limits.”

Today, Hart credits co-op—and the critical thinking skills it taught her—with helping develop a life and career that includes travel and health care as two of its central and most rewarding aspects.

After finishing her studies at Northeastern, Hart completed a family nurse practitioners program in Vermont. This led to her decision to enter the Foreign Service as its first nurse practitioner. In this job, Hart provided health care to U.S. Embassy personnel and their families overseas. Her first Foreign Service assignment took her to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she lived for more than three years; and to Jakarta, Indonesia, where she began her family.

Hart believes her co-op in Argentina was excellent preparation for her later work in the Foreign Service, as well as the work she does today. “It’s like looking at a puzzle. If you have the critical skill and the foundation, wherever you apply it you should be able to put the pieces together.”

International travel remains a strong focus for this alumna. Hart operates her own small clinic, TravelShot, providing travelers about to embark on their own international adventures with vaccinations and health information about their destination.

On a recent visit to Northeastern, Hart had the opportunity to see how the campus and the School of Nursing have evolved since she graduated. “I wish I could come back to Northeastern and be a nursing student again,” she said. Her preferred co-op assignment? International, of course.

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