“Como estas?” a Georgia State nursing student says to a young child, asking ‘how are you doing?’ The nursing student isn’t making polite conversation but trying to assess the child’s overall health.
Set up on the porch of a rural home outside of Leon, Nicaragua, 19 senior nursing students get their first taste of medical mission work. This makeshift clinic, complete with wandering barnyard animals, provides the community of El Pozo Quezalguaque with the only opportunity for healthcare.
Under the close supervision of nursing and respiratory faculty, three local physicians and two nurse practitioners, the students served 383 patients during the four day clinical practice: gaining valuable experiences in healthcare.
Shadowing physicians, nurse practitioners and a local pharmacist, students conducted physical assessments — listening for heart and breath sounds, checking wounds and assessing joint and muscle pain. Other students collected basic health histories, took vital signs and tested blood glucose when necessary before referring the patients to the healthcare providers for further treatment. The students, working with two nurse practitioners and a Nicaraguan pharmacist, gave antibiotic and steroid injections as prescribed by the physicians and nurse practitioners.
Using a local physician’s clinic, the students held a health fair for the community; they taught residents how to prevent and recognize Dengue fever, the importance of PAP smears and cervical cancer screening as well as how to perform monthly self-breast exams. Each topic of the health fair was selected by Dr. Medina, the host physician, as education topics sorely needed in the community.
“It was an amazing experience to be able to work directly with a nurse practitioner, and I gained so much confidence in my assessment skills during this trip to Nicaragua,” said nursing student Kelly McCahill. “I think that I will be a more confident new graduate nurse thanks to this experience.”
The Nicaraguan healthcare providers and the local community leaders were overwhelmed by the Lewis School students’ work.
“[Thank you] not only for your medicine and human resources, but your human touch, and caring for our people,” said one Nicaraguan official.
Faculty leaders were also impressed with the students’ efforts, noting that they did a good job of applying the skills they had learned back on campus.
“The students demonstrated what can be the hardest thing to teach, true compassion and caring for those in need,” says Kristen Lingle, clinical assistant professor of nursing and team leader. “They were compassionate, well-prepared and hard-working: working long hours in difficult circumstances with nothing but gratitude for the opportunity to help others.” The students earned 60 community clinical hours for their work.
The students say they will never forget what they experienced and learned in Nicaragua.
“I think the most rewarding part of our experience was being able to provide aid to groups of people that receive very little medical attention,” said nursing student Jennifer Meagley. “Everyone welcomed us with such gratitude and respect. I simply could not have asked for a better experience.”
The students’ learning experience doesn’t end with their return to Atlanta, Lingle notes.
“The students will complete their community clinical hours in metro Atlanta, caring for refugee children in Clarkston.”