Grateful Patients, Enduring Patience Top Students’ Guatemala Memories

When five Pennsylvania College of Technology nursing students provided a briefing on their study abroad course at a weeklong, volunteer-led medical clinic in rural Guatemala, chief among the lessons they learned were gratitude and patience.

The students joined a group of more than 40 volunteers from the Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation, a small, New York-based nonprofit that runs a twice-annual medical mission in the small town of Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala.

While there, the students saw between 200 and 300 patients each day in the areas of oral health, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and general medicine.

The Penn College group (from front): Glendalis Guadarrama, nursing instructor Christine B. Kavanagh, Maggie K. Calkins, Sarah J. Schick, Mikaila E. Lugo-Schlegel, and Rene Ramirez

They reported working with a “phenomenal teacher” in the general medicine area of the clinic. “They let us have our own patient, get their story and give the report to the doctor,” said student Maggie K. Calkins, of Bloomsburg.

“It was hard because you had to determine what was the top priority,” added student Mikaila E. Lugo-Schlegel, of Lebanon.

They were encouraged by an experienced nurse to gather the patients’ “whole story,” Calkins said, learning, for example, that sometimes headache complaints stemmed from the death of a loved one. “As a senior, it’s all starting to come together,” she said.

But Calkins said her bigger takeaway is “to be grateful for the medical care we have here. … People there were so grateful.”

“In our profession, we have a big responsibility,” learned Rene Ramirez, of Venezuela. “They would really appreciate you taking their blood pressure or checking their glucose. They were so happy to get that reassurance.”

The clients’ gratefulness was not diminished by the long wait to get into the clinic.

“Every day when we got there, people were lined up,” reported Lugo-Schlegel, yet, the group said, no one complained, despite the sun’s heat.

“The kids were so happy all the time,” said Glendalis Guadarrama, of Avondale, and happily amused themselves for the long wait when given a single crayon or sticker.

“It was so humbling,” said Sarah J. Schick, of Williamsport.

“To see the growth of the students from the beginning to the end was phenomenal,” said Christine B. Kavanagh, instructor of nursing, who led the study abroad course. “They students really shined, and the other providers were amazed.”

– Photos provided

A volunteer dentist applies fluoride varnish to students’ fingernails to demonstrate how it will feel to the young patients they would see.

A volunteer dentist applies fluoride varnish to students’ fingernails to demonstrate how it will feel to the young patients they would see.

Clients wait outside the clinic in Santa Rosa.

Clients wait outside the clinic in Santa Rosa.

Schick shares an “open-wide” smile with a young client …

Schick shares an “open-wide” smile with a young client …

… and a silly smile with another.

… and a silly smile with another.

Ramirez gathers a patient’s weight.

Ramirez gathers a patient’s weight.

Following a whirlwind seven days of work (the group landed in Guatemala on a Friday, helped to set up the clinic on Saturday, worked in the clinic Sunday through Thursday, and helped to pack up the clinic on Friday), the students hike a volcanic mountain in Antigua, Guatemala, on Saturday.

Following a whirlwind seven days of work (the group landed in Guatemala on a Friday, helped to set up the clinic on Saturday, worked in the clinic Sunday through Thursday, and helped to pack up the clinic on Friday), the students hike a volcanic mountain in Antigua, Guatemala, on Saturday.

They show how they really feel after the uphill hike …

They show how they really feel after the uphill hike …

… and take a breather to toast marshmallows on the warm volcanic mountainside.

… and take a breather to toast marshmallows on the warm volcanic mountainside.

Ramirez and Lugo-Schlegel apply fluoride varnish in the dental area of the clinic.

Ramirez and Lugo-Schlegel apply fluoride varnish in the dental area of the clinic.

While curious patients look on, Guadarrama applies a fluoride varnish.

While curious patients look on, Guadarrama applies a fluoride varnish.

Schick (in headband) checks a patient’s blood sugar.

Schick (in headband) checks a patient’s blood sugar.

 

 

Pennsylvania College of Technology is a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University