Nursing students lend a hand, gain experience in Guatemala
NTCC nursing student, Nallely Luna, is pictured holding her namesake alongside the proud new mother, (right) who she helped through the birth and recovery process.
A group of Northeast Texas Community College nursing students recently took their passion for helping others abroad as they participated in a medical mission to Guatemala. Part of a larger group of more than 70 volunteers, these NTCC nursing students and their instructors were able to get hands-on experience while making a difference in the lives of the people in rural mountainous areas of Guatemala.
NTCC students who participated in the course were Lupe Cabrera of Mount Pleasant, Kelly Carr of Leesburg, Kelly Craven of Mount Vernon, Kelly Dale of Mount Pleasant, Lisa Davis of Winnsboro, Maribel Gutierrez of Talco, Nallely Luna of Pittsburg,and Heather Simmons of Hughes Springs. Faculty members for the travel study course were Kim Gatlin and Lisa Currey. They were joined by numerous doctors, nurses and other members of the health care team from Mount Pleasant, Texarkana, Athens, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada and Missouri. The course offered at NTCC is RNSG 1493- Travel Study: Guatemala. It is open to students currently enrolled in the Associate Degree or Vocational Nursing programs at NTCC.
“This was our third year to participate in the Guatemala medical mission. It is a wonderful experience for our students on both a professional and personal level. This is evidenced by the students who have returned to Guatemala as part of the mission team after their graduation and licensure,” Gatlin said. “ Not only do they have the opportunity to work closely with some amazing doctors and nurses, but they also get the satisfaction that they were able to participate in the delivery of nursing and medical care in a third world country- relying on their skills and knowledge to provide this care without the use of state of the art equipment, medications, and resources.”
The students left for the trip on June 15 and were in Guatemala for a week. The group flew to Guatemala City and then traveled by bus to the Llano Cristiano medical clinic in a rural mountainous area outside of San Raymundo. According to Gatlin, the clinic sits vacant most of the year and is only open when visiting mission groups, like theirs, come to work.
”This trip really taught me how much we take for granted as Americans,” Kelly Carr, said. “A lot of the patients we saw had never seen a doctor before, and they were so grateful for the opportunity.”
During the time at the mission, students were able to work in a variety of specialties including triage, adult and pediatric clinic, OB/Gyn clinic, pre-op, surgery, and post-op.
A particular incident they all recalled fondly came when Nallely Luna was working in triage. A young mother came in “10 months pregnant.” Realizing that the baby was significantly overdue, the OB/Gyn doctor in the clinic performed anultrasound and scheduled an emergency Cesarean section. The mother had bonded with Luna and asked that she stay with her through the birth and recovery. In the end, the mother named her baby Nallely after Luna.
“Going to Guatemala was the best experience I have had. Helping the people over there made me feel great— especially when the children would come back running to us to say thanks for helping and give us a big hug,” Luna said.
Communication was sometimes an issue at the mission, as the native people in the area speak a unique blend of Spanish and Mayan languages. Three of the NTCC students are bilingual and were able to serve as translators.
“Nursing in Guatemala is a very different experience than our students see here in the United States. There are limitations on supplies and equipment, and the technology that we have is just not available there,” Currey said. “However, the students were able to work so closely with experienced doctors and nurses in a way that is a challenge to schedule at home. It is an amazing learning opportunity for NTCC Nursing Students.”
Local trip administrators for the Guatemala Medical Mission were Dr. Clint Davis and Bill Barkley of First Baptist Church Mount Pleasant. Dr. Gerald Stagg served as medical advisor for the group. According to Gatlin, These men were instrumental in establishing a relationship between the medical mission team and NTCC nursing program. They have been diligent to ensure that the students have a quality learning experience in Guatemala. They model moral behaviors and medical ethics in the delivery of care at the clinic.
“The Guatemala trip was so much more than just an academic educational experience for me. The selflessness of the mission participants, incredible efforts of everyone involved, and the gestures of gratitude we all received from the people of Guatemala are unmeasurable. It was an eye-opening experience that I believe everyone should have at one point in their life,” Kelly Carr said.
Looking back on their time in Guatemala, all of the students agreed that they plan to use their nursing education to do more mission work in the future.
“I believe we all, as volunteers, benefitted from our Guatemala experience as much as the patients we cared for. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to meet so many new friends,” Lisa Davis said.
Each year, the NTCC Nursing students work hard to raise funds to help with expenses for the students participating in the travel study course to Guatemala. Thanks to generous support from the community, NTCC nursing students were once again able to participate in a meaningful, life-changing experience through this course and with the dedication of the Guatemala Medical Mission Team.
“We would like to thank everyone who helped us out with our many fundraisers- bake sales, cookie dough sales, donations from friends, family, and community members. Every penny of that money was directly applied to the cost of travel and expenses for the students, and I am so very thankful to those that contributed,” Gatlin said. “This is an experience that will positively impact the delivery of care to patients in our community. These students will soon be practicing nurses in and around the area. They are forever changed by the connections and experiences in Guatemala with the mission team.”
For more information about the nursing program at NTCC, or to contribute to next year’s Guatemala Mission fund, please contact the NTCC Nursing Program @ 903-434-8303.