The lack of running water and electricity, and a patient population that doesn’t speak English, were not enough to deter LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing faculty and students from journeying to Central and South America this past spring to provide care to those most in need.
While there, they encountered people with chronic, untreated or poorly treated diseases, which made care complex. They also learned how to find ways to provide care with limited medical equipment and resources, building their own confidence and skills along the way.
Giving Back in Guatemala
In March, Nanette Morales, DNP, NP-C, DipACLM, Instructor of Clinical Nursing, headed to the rural town of Escuintla, Guatemala, for 10 days as one of two Louisiana Nurse Practitioner Foundation scholarship recipients. The scholarship covers the trip, which is coordinated through USA Medical Mission Network and supported by the Catholic Foundation.
“The students did not even have clean water to wash hands. We used hand sanitizer and reconstituted medications with our own personal water supply.”
Jessica Landry, DNP, FNP-BC
“We provided care for acute complaints such as respiratory infections, skin irritations and minor traumas but also treated chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and worm infestations,” says Dr. Morales. “I personally evaluated infants, children, adults and even provided prenatal care, as there were a significant number of women well into their pregnancies who had never received it. One young female I assessed had suffered with an illness for several weeks, and I found that she was septic and needed emergent referral to the hospital. She could have succumbed to her illness if she had not attended our clinic.”
Dr. Morales says the indigenous people of the town are extremely poor and do not receive regular health care or have access to health care services, and they were also in desperate need of general health education due to misconceptions about their illnesses. The people who were treated were extremely appreciative of the care her mission team provided, she says.
In May, two School of Nursing faculty members took three graduate and five undergraduate students for two weeks to clinics in Andahuaylillas, Peru, and surrounding villages to provide care. The team created clinics in various rural locations, carrying supplies, medicine, tables, chairs and equipment from village to village.
“They have limited medications on the formulary and only have access to lab tests such as a urine dip stick, urine pregnancy test and a vaginal wet prep – we did bring a microscope with us,” says Jessica Landry, DNP, FNP-BC, Program Coordinator, BSN-DNP Primary Care Family Nurse Practitioner and Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing. “No bloodwork or radiographs were available. SonoSim, an ultrasound company, let us borrow a portable unit that was quite helpful. Otherwise, the students did not even have clean water to wash hands. We used hand sanitizer and reconstituted medications with our own personal water supply.”
Students had to rely on their physical assessment skills. Communication was also difficult, as patients spoke Quechua, an indigenous language. Most students spoke Spanish and English and required a Quechua interpreter. The language barrier is one reason why patients often do not seek care.