By Samantha Armstrong
Nursing students and faculty have returned from their annual medical mission trip to San Quintin, Mexico.
Cynthia Shields and Pamela Schuster, professors of nursing, took nine students– Alyssa Blosser, Carly Greenwood, Kaitlyn Kalicatzaros, Maggie Lauer, Jayme Ritchie, Emily Shields, Jennifer Troutman and Mary Wardle– to San Quintin, Mexico to run a small clinic in a rural Mexican church.
For the past 10 years, during spring semester, the first seven nursing students in good academic standing have been given the opportunity to go on the medical mission trip.
The five-day trip consists of two days at the clinic, two days traveling and one day at Rosarito Beach.
Greenwood said the focus of the trip was to provide medical care to those within the community that don’t have access to health care. The students set up a triage center in the small church where they would check patients in, obtain vital signs, health histories and assess current problems.
The nurses would then bring the patient over to see the doctor or nurse practitioner so a diagnosis could be made and prescriptions given. If a medication was prescribed, the pharmacists would administer it free of charge.
Ritchie said some of the more common work they provided were ear irrigations. The people of San Quintin live in a hot climate that is filled with dirt and dust, so most of the patients have buildup that needs removed from facial orifices.
A large number of patients they treated were children with seasonal allergies. They were given medicine to help relieve the symptoms and multivitamins to provide them with the nutrients they need, Greenwood said.
Greenwood said there were also a lot of children who needed glasses or dental services, things that the travelling nurses could not provide.
After talking to the pastor of the church, it was arranged for the students to give the children a ride to the eye doctor or dentist and pay for the care using the extra money they raised for the trip.
The differences between Mexico and the U.S. were very noticeable during their stay, Ritchie said.
“It’s weird not being able to drink out of the faucet or even have running water to clean the dishes,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie also found it odd that even though Mexico is lacking in healthcare, the area had numerous pharmacies. The pharmacies in San Quintin sell medications on the shelves that are typically administered only with a prescription in the U.S.
The students also ran into a doctor who was only 21, which is atypical in the U.S. In Mexico, college education starts earlier, so younger professionals aren’t as rare.
Overall, the nursing students who attended said they came back with a better understanding of the severity of those living in impoverished conditions, giving them a greater sense of humility.
“We take so much for granted here that you don’t even realize. Especially when it comes to health care,” Lauer said, “If you don’t make someone’s coffee right as a nurse you get screamed at for it. In San Quintin they are just happy you’re available, educated and ready to help.”
The students said they felt honored to be able to help– so much that the students decided to continue raising money for San Quintin when they returned from the trip.
“If I take back anything from this trip, it’s to never take anything for granted and to remind yourself everyday how blessed you truly are,” Ritchie said.