Nursing Students Trek to Panama for Global Health Experience
USF College of Nursing students trekked to Panama to learn first-hand how community health is administered across the globe.
Fourteen nursing students spent about two weeks in the Central American country in April. The community health experience allowed students to study abroad and practice international health care while exploring another country’s culture and history.
Students started their journey at the University of Panama where they were paired with peers for upcoming trips to clinical sites. The USF group toured the university’s campus and simulation labs, and met with many of the nursing school’s directors, professors and students.
Overall, USF nursing students described the trip as an unforgettable global opportunity filled with eye-opening experiences. They took turns adding to a travel blog that documented the trip.
“When in Panama, each day is very unique, filled with wonderful opportunities and experiences,” wrote Courtney Whyte. “It was an amazing experience and the children were so happy to see us and learn.”
During the early part of the journey, Whyte was assigned to a group seeing patients at the Llano Bonito Health Center. But instead of staying in the clinic, the group went to one of the elementary schools in Chitre, a city in Panama.
At the school, students measured the height and weight of pupils in each grade to calculate their body mass index. While children were waiting to be weighed, student nurses taught them about the importance of handwashing and teeth brushing.
At other clinical sites, nursing students gave multiple vaccines, performed pap smears, and presented educational talks on birth control and diabetes.
“During my time at La Arena (clinic) I really connected with the employees there. They were interested in learning English and we bonded over the language learning process. There are plenty of similarities between Panama and the United States along with the differences. They get many of the same vaccines and medications and enjoy talking about their families and friends,” wrote Alexis DeBlanda.
When the nursing students weren’t at clinics, they explored nearby towns. Some wandered into local shops, others visited historical cathedrals, and some even watched as artists made pottery to sell in local shops.
Midway through their trip, a small group visited El Montuoso, a well-known mountainous forest preserve where eco-tourists go to climb its many nature trails and see the picturesque views.
Nursing student Christina Schedin recounted how they had to keep the bus windows open so that air flow would help build momentum for the bus to safely climb the mountainous terrain.
“The view up was magnificent. You could see cows grazing, houses along the mountains, and landscapes for days across the ranges,” Schedin wrote. “It was an amazing experience for the entire group. All in all, the trip and learning experience was a success. I would say El Montuoso will be a memory that none of us will soon forget.”
Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing