University of South Florida

USF Nursing team gains global health experience in Panama, makes an impact with donations

USF College of Nursing students and faculty recently spent two weeks in Panama, helping to provide care and learning firsthand about global health.

The annual trip is one of several offering public health experiences to students as part of the clinical component of their coursework, an initiative developed through the College’s POWER with Nursing: Partnership Opportunities for Wellness, Education and Research. The other global experiences are in Scotland and St. Croix. Led by USF Nursing’s Connie Visovsky, PhD, associate dean of faculty affairs and diversity, this year’s Panama trip included 17 nursing students and two other faculty members.

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Arriving June 21, the group was based in a community called Chitre, where they spent several days visiting local clinics to assist with vaccinations, pediatric evaluations and pap smears, and helping local University of Panama students at a local health fair conducting blood pressure, height and weight measurements and giving flu vaccines, as well as providing patient education. USF nursing students also presented on sexually transmitted infection prevention and the Zika virus.

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In addition, the USF Health team was offered an opportunity by the Panama Ministry of Health to go to Chepo, a remote, rural community nested in mountainous Panama, about two hours from the base in Chitre. There, they spent the day educating children on mosquito-borne illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases and gastroenteritis, as well as administering flu vaccines.

But the team also fulfilled another mission.

“When we arrived at the local school, where all children ages 4 to 16 live five days a week and on weekends return home to be with their families one to three hours away, the teachers informed us of their dire need for basic supplies,” Dr. Visovsky said.

So upon returning to the hotel, she said, the USF Health team went shopping and returned with eight reusable grocery bags filled with the needed items, which included soap, shampoo, insect repellant, sunscreen, powdered milk, juices, cereals, oatmeal, thermometers, washcloths, hair brushes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet tissue, and basic medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen for pain and fever.

“The next morning, I brought these supplies to our hotel manager, telling her that a faculty member from the University of Panama would pick them up for distribution to the children in Chepo,” Dr. Visovsky said. “The hotel manager was so touched by our gesture, she offered to add to this donation by sending sheets, pillows, pillowcases, and towels for the children, as many are so poor they sleep on bunk beds with only a bare mattress. For next summer, we made an agreement with the hotel to partner on donations to this little school and consider this one more way Bull nurses can influence the health care of the globe!”

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Nursing students going to Panama this year include: Anna-Grace Richardson, Kathie Longwell, Gabrielle Long, Kailey Taylor, Jayde Stansell, Gianna Constantine, Julia Rolla, Elizabeth Maffett, Nicole Aliaga, Melissa Daniels, Maria Nguyen, Andrea Huerta, Zianab Safi, Chardwick Batdorf, Elvi Moya, Ashlyn Gage, and Alexa Pridemore.

Nursing faculty included Dr. Visovsky; Denise Maguire, PhD, RN, CNL, associate professor of nursing; and Jessica Gordon, MS, instructor of nursing.

For more detail about this Panama trip, check out this blog the students produced to chronicle their experiences.


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