Posted on Aug 16, 2013

USF Nursing students make a difference in community health in Chitre, Panama

USF Nursing students make a difference in community health in Chitre, Panama

University of South Florida College of Nursing faculty and 28 students traveled to Chitre, Panama for a two-week Community/Public Health Nursing Clinical Abroad trip in summer 2013. The trip is part of a community health clinical immersion experience that fulfills a six-credit requirement for community health didactic and clinical courses and was developed through the College’s initiative, POWER with NursingPartnership Opportunities for Wellness, Education and Research. 

USF College of Nursing takes summer mission trip to Panama
USF College of Nursing students with University of Panama students in Chitre 

USF College of Nursing Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Student Affairs and Community Engagement, Connie Visovsky, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean, Global & Community Affairs, LaRon E. Nelson, PhD, RN, NP, and Adjunct Faculty, Caitlin M. Scott, MSN, RN, CCRN,  traveled to Panama with the students. Dr. Nelson, who led and taught the community/public health nursing clinical abroad course in Panama, said these kinds of opportunities allow USF College of Nursing to build global citizenship among the nursing students.

“The experience challenges how they think about the world and nursing practice,” Nelson said. “It also forces them to innovate in ways that cannot be taken for granted in the community in Panama where we visit. This will make them better nurses and we are very proud of that.”

USF College of Nursing takes summer mission trip to Panama
USF Nursing student testing the blood pressure of a patient in Panama

“The course is also an important aspect of the USF College of Nursing attention to global health and the development of nursing students into professionals capable of caring for patients of different backgrounds and cultures,” Dr. Visovsky said.  “Through this immersion experience, students were able to understand and develop skills for addressing common, chronic and infectious disease processes that threaten the health of a specific population, and identify strategies for assisting patients and health professionals in pursing evidence based practice solutions.”

The two-week trip included ongoing community health work in several community-based primary care clinics in Chitre and its surrounding areas caring for adults and children of all ages.

USF College of Nursing takes summer mission trip to Panama
USF Nursing students in Panama, summer 2013

During the first week, the students, under the supervision of the Dr. Visovsky, Dr. Nelson and Scott, provided immunizations, blood pressure testing, blood glucose level motorization, sexually transmitted disease check ups, infant head circumference and weight measurements in Chitre. While there, students visited a local hospital in Chitre where they spent a day in the intensive care unit, operating rooms, and emergency rooms. They also visited local clinics and a nutritional center for malnourished children where they shared health care tip with patients.

The second week, the team traveled to several rural areas of Chitre, including a small district of the Province of Herrera called Ocu. During this week, they visited a one-room school in Ocu where they evaluated children’s nutritional status and taught hand washing techniques.

USF College of Nursing takes summer mission trip to Panama
USF Nursing student preparing to provide immunizations for schoolchildren in Chitre  

Students then traveled to Pesce, a small town near Chitre, to attend a health fair where students measured blood pressures as well as cholesterol and glucose levels. Some students also went door-to-door with local healthcare workers making home visits to help educate families about dengue fever and ways to prevent it.

“I believe that reaching out to the community, especially those that are most vulnerable, helps us to gain humility, to recognize how fortunate we are, and to establish a sense of kinship and of being connected as a human race,” said Scott, who has been to Panama three times as a nursing student and faculty. “I always feel like I gain just as much, if not more, as I give when reaching out and helping others.”


USF College of Nursing takes summer mission trip to Panama
A USF Nursing student teaching a child in Ocu the USF Bulls hand symbol

Scott graduated from the USF College of Nursing with a bachelors in nursing and a master’s degree in Nursing Education and is now an Adjunct Faculty for the College. She traveled to Panama as an undergraduate student to in 2008, and she said she greatly enjoys going back to make a difference in the rural areas of Panama.

“As a student, the Panama trip helped me broaden my perspective about community health nursing and about nursing itself.” Scott said. “And now as a faculty member, I am beyond happy to experience these trips with the students. I feel that my repeated trips have helped me help the students reflect on their perspectives and grow their thinking.”

For more stories on the USF College of Nursing in Panama click here.

Through POWER with Nursing, our Partnership Opportunities for Wellness, Education and Research, the College of Nursing’s initiatives with existing and expanding collaborations stretch across the region, nation and globe. POWER with Nursing provides opportunities to collaborate with the USF College of Nursing on important initiatives like expanding the research residencies program, providing increased opportunities for interprofessional education, and expanding USF Global nursing programs.