Penn Nursing Students Make an Impact in Nicaragua

3 minute read

Penn nursing students in Nicaragua

Hola, todos! Excited to be updating you all. A lot has happened these past few months, but I want to highlight one of my favorites weeks.

In March, we hosted spring break groups from universities all over the country. Seven students from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (my alma mater!) spent spring break in our community in Nicaragua working with my nonprofit, Manna Project International, which uses the passion and energy of young people to empower developing international communities through hands-on learning and service.

It was such a great opportunity for the freshmen nurses to enhance their skills in taking vital signs and in getting a head start on the importance of physical assessment and pain assessment.

nurse taking blood pressure

From 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day we worked at two community clinics, shadowing a doctor and nurse, educating patients, collaborating with medical and pre-med students and performing community home visits/assessments.

Our main project was de-parasiting our community, which was done for the first time ever. Manna Project International has never implemented a health project on such a large scale before...

We ended up de-parasiting 1,004 community members - far over our goal! And, we were able to incorporate nursing education by focusing on the importance of hygiene and hand washing to prevent parasites. Below are graphs that depict the populations that received the de-parasiting medications. You'll notice a slight spike in the age graph for 11-year-olds, which is because of the sixth grade health classes we specifically targeted (as we are their teachers). Also, there were 48 people who did not record their age on the sheet, and they all are probably older. But, you can see that we generally helped out a good sample of Nicaragua, which is a very young population compared to the United States. And a hefty sample at that.

age of patients given medication

patient statistics

Parasites and preventable diseases are a large problem in rural Nicaraguan communities due to poor hygiene, lack of hand washing and contaminated water and food. As part of the de-parasiting treatment, the freshmen nursing students gave out medication free of charge, staffed an education table for teaching the patients the importance of hand washing and proper sanitation and distributed free soaps and toothbrushes. We had to be sure patients understood all the instructions because so many of the people cannot read or write, let alone understand the complexity of health literacy.

It was such important practice for the nursing students to learn to be culturally sensitive and to work on their Spanish skills and to be fully exposed to global health issues. While working on pediatric, adult and geriatric cases, we focused on the importance of holistic care, understanding where the patients live, what they eat, their financial restrictions and their cultural barriers.

One patient we cared for was a woman who had two toes amputated due to an infection. The nursing students had the opportunity to not only learn about wound care but also about issues the woman faced regarding limited transportation to the hospital and lack of cleanliness in rural conditions during the dry season where dust and dirt can easily permeate an open wound.

Overall, we had such an amazing week and made a major impact in our community. De-parasiting 1,004 community members - wow! I was so incredibly proud of my nursing students who dedicated a week to Manna Project International and the communities in which I work. With Penn Nursing's motto, Care to Change the World, I can most definitely say they changed the lives of many - into healthier, more lively ones. I can't thank them enough.

Natalie is a Christianson Fellowship recipient from the InterExchange Foundation volunteering in Nicaragua with the Manna Project International, a nonprofit organization committed to holistic community development in Latin America.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation