Seven Denver College of Nursing (DCN) students and one DCN faculty member provided healthcare and education to hundreds of Ecuadorians during their seven-day trip to Anconcito, Ecuador.
The school’s Global Health Perspectives program (GHP) partnered with the Foundation of International Medical Relief for Children (FIMRC), a non-profit organization committed to bring improved healthcare to communities in the developing world. The students worked out of Anconcito, Ecuador, in the province of St. Lena. FIMRC supports the clinic staff at Anconcito Health Post, organizes rural medical brigades, and conducts health examinations at local schools. Problems such as malnutrition, chronic disorders, and teenage pregnancy are very prevalent. The students assisted with health exams and education to address these persistent issues.
DCN students Katherine Anderson, Bethany Gresham, Priscilla McKay, Alyson Wolach, Jennifer Housekeeper, Pauline Khumalo, and Janet Nguyen were accompanied by Professor Marguerite Distel, RN, MSN. Students served over 700 Ecuadorians, treating various medical conditions such as hypertension, general infections, diabetes, vision impairments, and nutritional deficits. Additionally, students provided women’s health assessments and education to teenage girls regarding the prevention of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV.
“We cared for a 15-year-old pregnant girl who was having her first baby. She already had a sexually transmitted infection and needed to have a caesarian section delivery when she began labor. It was hard to find pregnant women in the community mainly because they do not seek medical care when they are pregnant. Instead, the doctors have to walk through the neighborhoods looking for pregnant women. They go door-to-door asking if there are any pregnant women in that home. It was the exact opposite of the United States”, says Bethany Gresham. DCN student Alyson Wolach added, “The most amazing thing to me was the healthcare tier system. A patient cannot seek high medical care unless the local healthcare clinic refers them. This leads people to not seek medical attention, despite all health care being free”.
DCN students described the experience as life changing and humbling; realizing that many people around the world get by on very little in the way of resources and supplies. The villagers live in small bamboo houses with no constructed floors. Since it was rainy season, the ground floors of the houses were always muddy. Alyson Wolach recalls, “The people of Anconcito were so excited to learn about their health, but were worried that they would not be able to get care due to their limited resources. We educated them on little things that they could do to improve their health”. This included providing dental, vision, and wound care education. Villagers were gifted toothbrushes, eyeglasses, and wound care kits, as well. Students administered many vaccines to young children and older adults.
Denver College of Nursing’s Global Health Perspectives program focuses on student development in global health settings around the world by combining classroom training with in-field service learning internships. GHP partners with nonprofits to promote its mission of healthcare education and sustainability in challenging national and international environments.