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Posted on Sep 6, 2017

USF students learn community-based nursing skills in Panama

USF students learn community-based nursing skills in Panama

For two weeks in June a group of 18 USF College of Nursing students and one research assistant experienced community nursing in Panama as part of the college’s Global Nursing Program.

The team of young health professionals was led by Dr. Constance Visovsky, PhD, RN, ACNP, FAAN, associate dean, and Dr. Denise Maguire, PhD, RN, CNL, associate professor, at the college.

Many nursing students fostered a strong connection with the Panamanian community, because they spoke conversational Spanish, which provided a more immersive global experience for the USF Bulls.

“The main reason the Panama Global Health experience called out to me was because it was a trip that offered more hands-on experiences versus just observing,” said Michelle Garcia, who is in the school’s Accelerated Second Bachelor’s Degree Sequence (SBN) program.

The trip was a professional exchange, as well as a cultural one weaved with lessons in history. Students visited many historic sites in Panama, including the downtown and colonial areas of Panama City, the Panama Canal, and even experienced the traditional religious celebration of the San Juan Batista Festival.

This year the program offered students more opportunities to learn community-based healthcare. The future nurses provided flu and chickenpox vaccinations during home visits and worked alongside University of Panama nursing students to offer medical care to Panamanian villagers.

“These experiences are deep and it affects them in a positive kind of way,” said Dr. Maguire.

Getting out in the communities also exposed students to a level of poverty and hardships in Panama that many don’t see first-hand in the U.S.

“One of the big takeaways,” said Dr. Visovsky, “is we are always quick to judge patients and it is not until you see poverty and resilience of this magnitude that you realize it’s not the patients.”

In the end, students came away with two main lessons – the importance of providing care for others and cultural sensitivity.

“Even though our cultures may have different health beliefs and practices,” said Garcia, “we still share the same common interest of the patient’s well-being.”

To read more about the 2017 Panama community health experience, visit their blog: https://usfnursingstudentsinpanama2017.wordpress.com/

Story by Nicholas Orlando, USF College of Nursing