BY NICK DIMARTINO
Twice a year, the Sacred Heart College of Nursing sends students to Guatemala where they provide free healthcare to the local population. Including free medication, home visits and wheelchair fittings, the program prioritizes healthcare for women and children.
“The one or two times we come each year may be the only times they receive treatment and checkups,” said Junior Caroline Barry.
There was a total of 31 members of the nursing program who went to Guatemala, including nine juniors, ten seniors, a midwife, a physician, an Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), and graduate nursing students.
For nursing students, the trip to Guatemala counts toward their required Obstetrics hours. One week in Guatemala is worth five weeks of Obstetrics hours in the United States.
Common medical conditions faced by the Guatemalan population include hypertension, diabetes, malnutrition, gastrointestinal issues and pediatric stunting.
Dr. Sheri Watson began the nursing travel program in 2008, and in March 2010, Dr. Eileen Yost, Dr. Christina Gunther and Dr. Kathy Fries led the nursing program on their first trip to Guatemala.
Yost explained that the reason the nursing program goes to Guatemala is because Gunther adopted her daughter from the country.
Because healthcare resources are scarce in Guatemala and many people lack methods of transportation, citizens are forced to walk for miles in order to receive basic treatment.
Medical knowledge in Guatemala is also limited. Junior Sarah Cauley explained that on many occasions they met with patients who had previously received poor medical advice from local doctors.
Students worked to address the healthcare needs in Guatemala by assisting at the following four stations.
In Triage, students measured the blood pressure of patients.
The General station required students to work with the physician to help patients with a variety of health problems.
OBGYN involves the assistance of pregnant women.
In the pharmacy, the fourth station, students assisted in reading, organizing, and helping in the distribution of prescriptions.
“I learned about the realities of how to care for people in a different environment and a different culture,” said Cauley.
Students had to change their eating and drinking habits and were required to bring their own filtered water for drinking. Many were exposed to the language barrier and used translators when interacting with patients.
When they’re not working, students spend their time exploring Guatemala by hiking the Voylan Picaya volcano and exploring the city of Antigua.
“I’ve seen stuff I would have never be able to see in the U.S,” said Barry. “This trip gives so many nursing majors the opportunity to give back and help people in another country.”