For the first time ever, West Coast University students from the Miami campus traveled with the Global Health Program for a two-week visit to the hospitals and clinics of Panama.
The 14 students and four professional nurses visited several sites in Panama City and Chitre, a smaller city about four hours by car to the west. Students got to see firsthand the differences and similarities in delivering community health care between Panamanian nurses and those in the U.S.
Trip Summary: Panama
Dates: April 30–May 14, 2016
Location: Chitre and Panama City, Panama
Faculty Coordinator: Melissa Cebedo, WCU-Orange County
Nursing Ambassadors: Laura Luciani, CHOC; Nichole Haase, CHOC
IE Staff: Bethany Thrasher – Faculty Manager
“This was an incredible event in my life and was nothing short of what I expected from a trip like this,” WCU-Miami’s Joselyn Ruiz said. “This is an essential part to my curriculum and growth as a nurse and individual.”
Working with the University of Panama in Chitre during Week 1, the cohort shadowed the student clinical rotations which included working in health centers, conducting home visits and community surveys. Some of the WCU students also participated in immunization clinics and health education outreach activities.
“In Chitré, the nurses truly taught us the definition of public health nursing. The nursing students were always so willing to help us learn about their culture and ways without any judgment,” WCU-Miami BSN student Alexandra Fernandez said.
At Los Jaramillos Elementary School, WCU students educated the elementary school students on oral health, hand hygiene and the importance of physical activities. In the school's remote area, families raise their own crops and animals to feed the children at the one-room school.
The group also visited an Panamanian Red Cross orphanage and senior home, providing public health education to the residents.
“Something that will forever remain in my heart is the love the little children showed us in the Panama City orphanage,” WCU-Los Angeles BSN student Nune Stepanyan said. “I thought that at some point someone was going to react like we were intruders but throughout the trip we were welcomed at every activity center we visited.”
In the city of La Chorrera, the GPH cohort assisted staff with improving a neighborhood park by painting recycled tires to use as tree planters. Prior to assisting with park improvements, students provided education on multiple topics at the elementary school including help with proper oral and hand hygiene.
“This experience really opened my eyes to the importance of extending care to the community as well as providing continuous education to patients and their families. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have been a student nurse ambassador for West Coast University,” WCU-LA’s Melissa Rivera said.
At the University of Panama, the Roy Adaptation Association led a half-day event that brought WCU students together with the UPanama students. WCU International Education faculty manager Bethany Thrasher represented WCU during the panel discussion with UPanama faculty in front of a group of 80 nursing students and faculty.
Earlier in the month, Thrasher had represented WCU at the Nursing Theory Conference in Monrovia, California. While at the conference, she met Sister Callista Roy, PhD, RN, FAAN, a prominent professor and nursing theorist who created the Roy Adaptation Model of Nursing. Sister Roy connected Thrasher with The Roy Adaptation Association chapter in Panama. One of seven locations worldwide, the Panamanian chapter welcomed WCU students and faculty with open arms, partnering the group with the University of Panama students and faculty.
For its final clinical visit, the group toured Hospital Nacional in Panama City with Dr. Juan Medrano and hospital administrator Craig Morrissey. The Hospital Nacional began in 1973 as a 10-bed maternity hospital and is now a state-of-the-art facility serving the upper-middle class in Panama City. This facility was selected as one to serve President Obama, while on location in Panama during the Summit of the Americas in April 2015.
“If Panama taught me one thing, it is that you never know what someone is truly going through until you witness it firsthand. I will continue to provide education to those who need it, and do my best to help those who do not have the resources necessary,” WCU-Ontario’s Gina Musolino said. “This trip has inspired me in many ways, but it has also inspired me to do medical relief trips in the future as a registered nurse.”