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Nursing, Pharmacy Students Deliver Interprofessional Health Care while Abroad

February 1, 2018

Last December, students from the Wegmans School of Nursing and Wegmans School of Pharmacy spent two weeks providing medical care to communities in coastal regions of Peru.

Last December, students from the Wegmans School of Nursing and Wegmans School of Pharmacy spent two weeks providing medical care to communities in coastal regions of Peru.

The trip, which was organized through International Service Learning (ISL), a non-government organization, provided the students with interprofessional training as members of a health care team. The team, which ran free health care clinics in San Miguel and Laviscachera, included 10 nursing students, two pharmacy students, Wegmans School of Nursing faculty members Karen Parker and Joanne Weinschreider, three nurses from ISL, and two doctors.

Upon arriving in Peru, the students spent time learning about ISL’s mission, practicing the Spanish terms for common Peruvian illnesses, and working with the doctors to understand common medications and treatment plans unique to the community. The students also helped gather data for a census while going door-to-door in the community to spread the word about the free health care that would be provided during the clinics.

During the clinics, which averaged 60 patients each day, the nursing students did intake and provided head-to-toe health assessments, including physicals, well-child visits, and screenings for BMI and blood pressure. They then presented their findings to the doctors. They also worked with the pharmacy students to educate patients on safe medication practices. For their part, the pharmacy students dispensed medication and counseled patients on alternative therapies, as well.

“Working with, and getting to know, some of the students from the School of Nursing was one of the best parts of the trip,” said fourth-year pharmacy student Lindsey Shoales. “As health care professionals, we have a general idea of what members in other fields do, but it is not until you have the opportunity to work side-by-side that you gain a true understanding and respect for all that they do.”

Nursing student Kristina Balsano ’18 agreed.

“This experience opened my eyes to how health care works, and how there would be no health care system without teamwork, appreciation for our respective roles, and collaboration in order to give the best care to patients,” she said.

That’s exactly the type of interprofessional growth Parker, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, hoped students would gain through the trip.

“We talk about not training in silos, and here, they were able to see the synergy of having nursing and pharmacy together–in the end, they work together to create more effective outcomes for the patient,” said Parker.

Balsano hopes to work on a pediatric unit or in a children’s hospital upon graduation. She said the experiences in Peru boosted her knowledge of childhood diseases, expectations, and development, while honing her assessment skills.

“It is difficult to interview, take vitals, and make an assessment with multiple kids running around while outside in the 100-degree heat and speaking a different language,” she said. “But, I also believe that difficulty made me persevere through and become a better provider in the end. It made us use our critical thinking and observation skills that sometimes we forget is so important in our treatment and plans as nurses.”

Prior to leaving for Peru, the students launched a GoFundMe campaign to benefit one of the communities where they would work. After speaking with people in the community, the students decided to donate their funds—$750 in all—to the church in San Miguel. A small portion helped purchase items for the children’s education day, as well as plates and silverware for the Church’s kitchen. They also learned that fresh-squeezed juice from local fruits is a cultural preference, but was mostly done by hand every day, so they purchased a blender and refrigerator, too.

Shoales, who accepted a post-graduate position as a float pharmacist at CVS pharmacies in Targets across the Rochester and Syracuse regional, noted that the experience in Peru would inform her work as a professional in the field.

“I learned that despite what health care career you are in—nurse, pharmacist, doctor—the core value should remain constant: compassion,” she explained. “As students at Fisher, we leave as well-educated professionals, and it is then our responsibility to merge compassion and all that we have learned to provide meaningful care to patients that we will encounter.”