Study Abroad in Panama 2023
Undergraduate nursing students from St. David’s School of Nursing at Texas State University recently participated in a 10-day service-learning education abroad trip to central Panama. The group of 16 students and three nursing faculty used this experience to pursue the mission of the university through service, embracing diversity, fostering cultural development, and preparing our graduates to participate fully in the world. Aside from learning about Panamanian cultural, health, and spiritual practices, students participated in disease prevention and health promotion activities through community clinical practice with local physicians and pharmacists. They also taught children and families fun and interactive oral hygiene topics, creating engaging learning games and lessons at a level of learning that was accessible to all. Students were able to contribute to building sustainable and empowered communities through developing and holding “charlas”, or chats, with local community health workers (CHW) and village members on topics such as first aid, CPR, wound care, signs of stroke, and other important topics that will enhance the community health workers’ ability to continue to provide adequate care for their communities. A average Panamanian village may not have access to health care services closer than 4 hours away, and only a few are lucky enough to have a CHW. The students prepared and delivered all their teaching in Spanish, with only a little help from translators in answering questions from the audience.
One village member expressed her gratitude for this kind of personal teaching, saying, “What I have been taught is something that is mine and can’t ever be taken away from me.” CHWs, families, children, and village members expressed much gratitude for the care and education the students offered. The students finished up the experience through a cultural exchange in which community members dressed in traditional costumes and performed traditional dances for the students. In exchange, the nursing students performed and taught townspeople the Texas two-step. One student described her experience this way: “This trip has lasting impacts on my nursing career because it opened my eyes to not only the blessings we have in America, but also to practical skills such as creativity, making the most with the little that you have, communication despite barriers, and meeting people where they are in a time of suffering. Being in Panamá completely aligned with my hopes of providing care to those who
are under-served and being immersed in a new cultural environment. I better understand now that nursing is a global profession because as frontline workers, we provided education, individualized patient care, and advocated for each person that we encountered. My hope is that this community and every Global Brigades community will be EMPOWERED and advocated for in the future.” - Dr. Monica Hughes, Clinical Assistant Professor