In two week-long, hands-on study abroad sessions in rural Guatemala, 22 registered nurses studying to become nurse practitioners provided primary care to about 1,700 Maya villagers of all ages. The
Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing
students, under the leadership of Rhonda Goodman, Ph.D., associate professor, working collaboratively with non-governmental organizations such as Nursing Heart, Inc., Faith in Practice and Hombres y Mujeres en Accion, set up rural clinical outposts to provide much-needed health screenings and medical care to underserved Maya families. Equipped only with basic supplies such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and glucometers, in addition to conducting general physical exams, they screened at least 500 women for cervical cancer, the most common kind of cancer found in Guatemalan women. Goodman works closely with non-governmental organizations for physician follow-up for those with chronic health conditions. In carrying out their work, they found fertile ground for research. Goodman’s interviews with Maya women inform her recent article in the International Journal of Human Caring, and some doctoral students have been conducting research that draws on their experiences in Guatemala.
In response to student demand, Goodman reinvented the curriculum and stayed on a third week so undergraduates could participate for the first time. She and the students teamed up on wellness screenings for about 200 children at two schools, bringing to nearly 6,000 the number of patients seen by FAU students in four years in 14 Guatemalan villages.
“I’m constantly teaching on this program,” she said. “I got to co-teach with a former student on this trip – that’s the ultimate reward.”
We asked her students to tell us a little about their experiences. Here’s some of what they shared.
“Awakening each day filled me with anticipation. I loved heading to the clinic to assist the local doctor with the many ailments that the people suffered. Despite lacking many aspects of modern technology, the small clinic thrived. … A piece of me will always remain in Guatemala. One of my highest goals is to return and to serve as a nurse practitioner. And so, Dr. Goodman, just as you recited the Greek proverb that “a city flourishes when its people plant trees under which they may never sit,” you planted a seedling within me. This opportunity allowed that seedling to take root within me. Someday I will return, and it is my greatest hope that the people I serve will enjoy the shade of the tree you planted in me.”
— Erica Dixon, Bachelor of Science in Nursing student; recipient of University Scholar Award, 2016
“I learned so much throughout this trip in Guatemala. Not only was I able to apply the clinical nursing skills that I already have, I was able to further expand my skills. … It has changed me and my future in nursing for the better in the sense that it has lit a spark in me to put much more passion, understanding and heart into my work as a nurse. I had never done anything like this in the past, and now I truly cannot envision my future without continuing this kind of work for those less privileged. … The care I provide for each of my patients will show the same kind of love and compassion I had for the people of Guatemala. I will also refrain from any preconceived judgments and treat each patient holistically and based on their own values. Guatemala has changed me not only as a student nurse, but as a person.”
— Taylor Hunter, Bachelor of Science in Nursing student
“As students we were able to apply our textbook knowledge; we interviewed, assessed and treated a patient population outside our norm. In addition, it was a once in a lifetime experience. … This experience ignited a drive to continue to volunteer my nursing knowledge and time in my local community. ... I am forever changed by this study abroad trip; the memories will last a lifetime.”
— Cheslyn Morisset (Nurse Practitioner student)
“I consider this experience to be one of the most life-changing moments of my life – not only because I was able to serve the Guatemalan community, but for the opportunity to grow as a human being. ... I encourage nurses to roll up their sleeves and become part of this great opportunity to serve the Guatemalan Maya community. This experience will not only change the lives of others, but in the process you will be transformed. Needless to say, the clinical experience one will acquire in Guatemala transcends monetary value. It lifts the human experience and puts the art of caring into a much greater perspective.”
— Ada Saidenstat (Nurse Practitioner student)