Excited to be updating you all. A lot has happened these past few months, but I want to highlight one of my favorites weeks.
In March, we hosted spring break groups from universities all over the country. Seven students from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (my alma mater!) spent spring break in our community in Nicaragua working with Manna Project International, which fosters communities of talented young leaders to become the next generation of social change agents by engaging in collaborative, on-the-ground service with international communities in need.
It was such a great opportunity for the freshmen nurses to enhance their skills in taking vital signs and in getting a head start on the importance of physical assessment and pain assessment.
From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day we worked at two community clinics, shadowing a doctor and nurse, educating patients, collaborating with medical and pre-med students and performing community home visits/assessments.
Our main project was to de-parasiting the entire community of Cedro Galán for the first time in history. Treating parasitic infections is important, because they lead to impaired absorption of nutrients and decreased immune function. Manna Project International has never implemented a health project on such a large scale before...
We ended up de-parasiting 1,004 community members - far exceeding our goal! We were able to incorporate nursing education by focusing on the importance of hygiene and handwashing to prevent reinfection. Below are graphs that depict the populations receiving de-parasite medications.
You’ll notice a slight spike in the age graph for 11 year olds, which is because we partnered with the local sixth grade health classes to reach students. Also, there were 48 people who did not record their age on the sheet, and they all are probably older. But, you can see that we generally helped out a good sample of Nicaragua's population, which is a very young population compared to the United States. And a hefty sample at that!
Parasites and preventable diseases are a large problem in rural Nicaraguan communities due to poor hygiene, lack of handwashing and contaminated water and food sources. As part of the de-parasiting treatment, the freshmen nursing students gave out medication free of charge, staffed an education table for teaching the patients the importance of handwashing and proper sanitation, and distributed free soaps and toothbrushes. We had to be sure patients understood all the instructions because so many of the people cannot read or write, let alone understand the complexity of health literacy.
It was such important practice for the nursing students to learn to be culturally sensitive and to work on their Spanish skills and to be fully exposed to global health issues. While working on pediatric, adult and geriatric cases, we focused on the importance of holistic care, understanding where the patients live, what they eat, their financial restrictions and cultural practices.
One patient we cared for was a woman who had had two toes amputated due to an infection. The nursing students had the opportunity to not only learn about wound care but also about issues the woman faced regarding limited transportation to the hospital and lack of cleanliness in rural conditions during the dry season where dust and dirt can easily permeate an open wound.
Overall, we had such an amazing week and made a major impact in our community. De-parasiting 1,004 community members, wow! I was so incredibly proud of my nursing students who dedicated a week to Manna Project International and the communities in which I work. With Penn Nursing’s motto,
Care to Change the World,
I can most definitely say they changed the lives of many - into healthier, more lively ones. I can’t thank them enough.
By Natalie Ball