Getting a global health education | Vancouver Island University

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I attended a community practice placement in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with 11 other Bachelor of Science in Nursing students last fall.

Nursing students practice taking blood pressure

Trip prep spanned two semesters, with fundraising events to cover travel costs as well as a donation to the non-governmental organization we partner with. Weekly meetings with instructors and peers focused on global citizenship and sharing knowledge about the host community’s medical system. This included developing relationships and collaborating with community partners via Zoom, conducting community needs assessments and engaging in activities that promote health and empowerment.

This program was an opportunity to blend what we are learning in the classroom with practical experiences. It also increased our understanding of nursing practice and fostered an appreciation for the interconnected nature of global health-care landscapes.

Community partners

Our primary partnership was with an NGO called Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora. This is a longstanding relationship that has spanned many years. The group’s generosity and kindness were evident throughout our stay. They organized many activities and learning experiences and came with us to many engagements.

On Mondays and Fridays, we focused on the needs of women and their families in the rural community of Banda. We educated community members on a variety of health-care topics such as menopause and diabetes. We collaborated with health care aid students from the local university on Tuesdays, where we discussed topics such as CPR, basic first aid and the Heimlich maneuver.

A unique aspect of our work was that the Mexican students would then teach these topics in Spanish. On Wednesdays, we went to rural high schools in different communities, offering comprehensive sexual health education. This was followed by a Spanish presentation from another organization, Centro Para Adolecentes de San Miguel de Allende (CASA). CASA, established in 1981, is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of vulnerable populations through interventions in health, education and culture. Embracing a youth-to-youth model, CASA has significantly impacted countless lives, advocating for structural changes in public policies in Mexico. On Thursdays, at the Universidad Continente Americano, we attended teaching sessions run by nursing students. A variety of topics were covered, including massage therapy, paramedicine and traditional healing.

Takeaways

This journey was an amazing learning adventure for all. It exposed us to more than we could have imagined. We immersed ourselves in a different culture with its unique language and unfamiliar customs. It was like discovering a whole new world beyond the textbooks and it made the experience more exciting and enriching. The experience was humbling and eye-opening. For example, we talked with residents in rural villages grappling with socioeconomic conditions that some of us had never experienced. It brought the social determinants of health to life for us.

In our communal living arrangement we shared our space with 14 individuals around the clock for three weeks. Because we worked with diverse groups, we often finalized our schedule hours before our workday started as we adapted to community needs. We learned to find comfort within the discomfort. Many of us returned changed both professionally and personally.

 

Talia Connor is a fourth-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student. She entered nursing with a passion to help others and start a career that contributes to life-long learning. When she isn’t nursing, Talia enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and going on walks with her puppy.

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