Nursing Students Gain Real-life Experience in the Field of International Medicine

Monday, October 8, 2012 1:25:00 AM

In May, 16 students from Cardinal Stritch University’s Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing traveled to Honduras as part of a Global Medical Brigades mission where they volunteered and learned about improving the quality of life in the developing country. Over the course of one week in Central America, the students also gained a unique cultural experience and a new appreciation for health care.

Stationed in Sabana Redonda, Honduras, a rural community 55 miles east of the capital city Tegucigalpa, the students spent three days in a mobile medical unit with Global Brigades, where they worked closely with physicians to provide quality medical care and education to a community with limited access to health care.

The largest student-led health and sustainable development group in the world, Global Brigades works with rural communities in Honduras, Panama and Ghana to address the major health and development needs in those regions through a holistic and sustainable approach.

As part of the medical unit, Stritch nursing students helped set up a small clinic in a local school where patients were given the opportunity to be seen by doctors and dentists. Each patient received a physical consultation by a licensed physician. In addition, all patients had access to a dentist for an extraction or filling. Children received oral care education and a fluoride treatment. Female patients also had access to a gynecologist to receive a Pap smear.

Stritch nursing students obtained patient history and current symptoms, took patient vitals, shadowed and assisted licensed physicians, participated in an educational workshop, and filled prescriptions under a licensed pharmacist. Students also assisted in data entry for Global Brigades’ Electronic Health Records system to aid in follow-up care. Throughout the process, Stritch nursing students became familiar with the prevalent health issues in the community and learned how to prevent and treat those illnesses.
In three days, 336 patients visited the clinic for care from doctors and dentists.

Stacie Slamann, a senior nursing student at Stritch, said she and fellow classmates were surprised at how far people traveled by foot just to be seen by doctors.

“It was very eye-opening to see how their approach to health care is drastically different than ours,” she said. “They are just so relaxed and appreciative in terms of health care. They’ll walk for miles and wait for six hours just to see a doctor.”

After their work in the clinic came to an end, the students volunteered for another pilot program offered by Global Brigades in which they traveled to El Cantón to help build a health clinic. Since the clinic was in the early stages of construction, they were tasked with the job of constructing exterior walls.

“It was very rewarding to see the progress that we made on the architecture brigade day,” said Slamann. “We actually got really far in the building aspect. They showed us the blueprints and a computerized sketch of what it will look like when it’s complete. To know that this is going to be a place where people can be safe, the water is going to be clean, and people can come to be treated and seen by a nurse, that made the biggest difference for me.”

The trip also involved a visit to a children’s orphanage named Sociedad Amigos de los Niños. They interacted with the children, played soccer, helped them with their homework and made bracelets. The visit underscored Stritch’s Franciscan values, as the students learned that the orphanage was founded by Franciscan Sister Maria Rosa Leggol.

Having left Honduras feeling like they made a tangible impact on the community while gaining valuable experience in the field of international medicine, it’s no surprise the students want to do it all over again.
“We’re trying to figure out another time to go back,” said Slamann. “Everybody had an amazing time. We loved being down there, and it was definitely an amazing experience.”