By Madelyn Capo
Everyone remembers field trips from grade school – that one day that the classroom was no longer four walls, but the whole world, ready to be seen. One day out of hundreds that made what students learned real, applicable and engaging.
For Georgia College nursing students in the Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner Program, that day was actually a two-week long study abroad journey to the country of Honduras, where 10 students treated real patients in need of medical attention.
The group left Oct. 26 and returned a little more than a week ago on Nov. 9.
Nursing faculty members Sallie Coke and Deborah McMillan partnered with Honduras Outreach Inc., a nonprofit deeply rooted in the Agalta Valley, to make the trip possible.
“While in Honduras, we went to many of the outlying villages and clinics. One of the most remote villages took us over two hours to reach,” Coke said. “We were sometimes in schools, small clinics, or just outside under a covered shed. We frequently had to run chickens and dogs out of the exam areas; it was hilarious and unlike anything we could ever imagine to happen in the United States.”
In this type of setting, struggles arose, but once stations were set up, patient after patient was treated. It is estimated that there were at least 1,200 patients awaiting treatment at the initial planning of the trip, with more flocking to the area once word got out that a health care team was expected to arrive.
“We had some patients that had to wait in line for four hours to see us, yet they never complained once,” Kristin Corbin, a senior nursing student who went on the trip said. “For two weeks, we did not have to worry about our documentation or whether what we did could become a lawsuit. Instead, we cared for them as people. We loved and served the communities. The experience can not be expressed in words.”
Located above Nicaragua, the people of this Central American country live without running water, power, healthcare or medication. The poverty of so many in this area is striking, Coke said.
“The people of the Agalta Valley laughed, sang and welcomed us kindheartedly,” Coke said. “They were thankful for everything we were able to do for them even if it was just giving them Tylenol for pain or washing out a plugged up ear.”
The professors and students found themselves treating diseases not common in the United States such as Dengue fever, malaria and Leishmaniasis and also more common illnesses like strep throat, diabetes and chicken pox.
“Being in Honduras taught me how to use our resources efficiently. We do not have to run every diagnostic test to rule out every illness before we treat our patients,” Corbin said. “This experience taught me how important a thorough history and physical exam is.”
Corbin also added that, “treating patients in Honduras exceeded my expectations. It was amazing to me how little some of the communities had, yet how rich in love and compassion they were.”
Corbin says that the most important thing she learned on the trip is how to “love one another.” She added, “We are all so blessed and it is easy to take what we have for granted. However, we should strive to find a way to use our resources, skills, and knowledge for the greater good.”
The students of the Science in Nursing program will graduate in May as nurse practitioners.