Texas State nursing students complete 10-day service-learning trip to Panama
Undergraduate students from St. David’s School of Nursing at Texas State University’s Round Rock Campus recently participated in a 10-day service-learning education abroad trip to central Panama.
The group of 16 nursing students and three faculty used this experience to pursue the mission of the university through service, embracing diversity and fostering cultural development.
Aside from learning about Panamanian cultural, health and spiritual practices, students participated in disease prevention and health promotion activities through community clinical practice with local physicians and pharmacists. They also taught children and families fun and interactive oral hygiene topics and created engaging educational games and lessons at a level of learning that was accessible to all.
The students delivered all their teaching in Spanish, with only a little help from translators in answering questions from the audience.
“This trip has lasting impacts on my nursing career because it opened my eyes to not only the blessings we have in America, but also to practical skills such as creativity, making the most with what you have, communication despite barriers, and meeting people where they are in a time of suffering,” said Ellen Nichols, a senior nursing student who grew up in Houston. “Being in Panamá completely aligned with my hopes of providing care to those who are under-served and being immersed in a new cultural environment.”
Students contributed to building sustainable and empowered communities through developing and holding “charlas,” or chats, with local community health workers and village members on topics such as first aid, CPR, wound care, signs of stroke and other important topics. This knowledge will enhance the community health workers’ ability to provide adequate care for local patients.
“I better understand now that nursing is a global profession because as frontline workers, we provided education, individualized patient care and advocated for each person that we encountered,” Nichols said. “My hope is that this community and every Global Brigades community will be empowered and advocated for in the future.”
The average Panamanian village may not have access to healthcare services closer than four hours away, and only a few are lucky enough to have a community health worker.
Community health workers, families, children and village members expressed much gratitude for the care and education the students offered. The students finished up the experience through a cultural exchange in which community members dressed in traditional costumes and performed dances for the students. In exchange, the nursing students performed and taught townspeople the Texas two-step.