Nursing students, who are facing a career of serving the public, are taking their campus education to people in need of health care in the villages of the South American country of Peru.
The trip abroad was conducted in late fall as a mission to learn about different forms of health care.
“The purpose of the trip was to provide humanistic, safe, and evidence-based care to underserved patient populations in Cusco, Peru, which was humbling and educational,” says Allison Dube, a senior nursing major.
“We were able to volunteer in their clinics and set up our own clinic in a village where we cared for many people of all different ages.”
Not only did the nursing students learn about Peru’s health care, but they also set up their own clinics for hands-on experience.
“Our clinic, we set up in a rural village outside of Cusco, was where I felt I made the biggest impact on this trip,” Dube says.
“We got to bring all of our supplies we had collected and set up our own stations to see patients. We had a blood glucose station, vitals, vision, teeth cleaning, pharmacy and full health assessment rooms to see all of the patients. It was amazing to help these people and provide such simple care to help them better understand how to care for their health. They were so grateful for our help and brought us all lunch after. It was so beautiful to see the impact we made on their community and how truly grateful they were.”
“The trip was planned in April of 2022, details being confirmed all the way through October,” Chairperson of the School of Nursing, Maria Krol, says. “It took over six months to plan the trip because I need to make sure students have permission to visit the clinics and we need to arrange transportation to travel to the remote communities.”
Krol says the trip was only open to senior nursing students and family nurse practitioner students. Fifteen students ended up attending: 13 nursing students and two family nurse practitioner students.
According to the flyer on the School of Nursing’s Instagram, @scsunursing, “the experiential learning outside of the traditional clinical and classroom environments will encompass work, such as providing care in clinics with underserved populations in impoverished areas both within the U.S. and in countries through the world; visiting and examining varying health care systems, engaging in exchange learning with foreign nursing education systems; expanding their perspectives of a global society, and developing cultural congruent care that can be applied to practice in the U.S. and abroad.”
“For the cultural aspect of the trip, I used a travel agency called Pacha Inca operated by Milagros, and for the health care aspect I utilize several contacts,” Krol says. “Paulina Farfan Gonzalez arranged the opportunity for the students to spend three days in El Centro de Salud Belenpampa. She also coordinates medical groups that visit remote communities. So, for two days, we participate in those medical outreach groups.”
The National Student Nurses Association and students going on the trip collected donations for families in Peru, according to Lauren Young, another senior nursing major.
“We brought so many supplies including shampoo, conditioner, Band-Aids, vitamins, pain medications, ointments, deodorant toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine products and much more,” Young says.
Dube says she was inspired to become a nurse because, when she was younger, she saw her mom being taken care of by nurses and wanted to help people as well.
“Health care in Peru is very different than in America,” Dube says. “We are so fortunate in America for all of the advances and resources we have. In Peru, they use less sterile techniques and do not have all the fancy hospital equipment we own. They are very hard working and take great care of their community. They just do not have all the resources we are blessed with in America to provide the same care.”
Young says she noticed that many people do not have access to supplies or doctors, especially in rural areas.
Dube and Young both say their favorite part of the trip was the clinic.
“It was a very rewarding experience, and I would love to do something like this again,” Young says.
Besides the clinic, Dube’s other favorite part of the trip was exploring Peru. She says Machu Picchu was “breathtaking” and unlike anything she had ever seen before.
According to Krol, the students visited Sacred Valley, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu town and Machu Picchu.
“This experience really changed my perspective on what’s important,” Dube says. “I met a man working at a restaurant in Peru who is originally from Venezuela. He told me he makes about 30 dollars a month and sends the majority of it back to his family in Venezuela. He was telling us how he wants to move to America one day to make even more money to send back home. This story has really stuck with me since that trip. Sometimes I take for granted all of the things I have and the opportunities I am given. It has opened my eyes to how fortunate I am and that materialistic things don’t mean much when you have family and friends you care for.”
Young similarly says this trip changed her perspective.
“No matter how big or little a service might be, it can cause a huge impact on others’ lives,” Young says. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and do something for others that you have never done before, because it will be the most rewarding experience you will ever have.”