Campus & Community

PBSC nursing students take a break to care for needy

Nursing Students on a Mission
Kirsti Muth asks a child in Santiago, Guatemala which color toothbrush he wants to take home.

Some college students devote their summer break to enjoying downtime for themselves, but not a certain group of Palm Beach State College nursing students. Instead, seven classmates who are starting their second year in the Nursing A.S. degree program this fall, decided they wanted to put their new skills to use for a good cause.

Calling themselves “Nursing Students on a Mission,” the group traveled to Antigua, Guatemala on July 31 to volunteer for a medical outreach campaign under the auspices of International Volunteer Headquarters and Maximo Nivel, partnering organizations that specialize in affordable volunteer trips. Three of the group’s family members also participated.

With Antigua as their base, the students spent the first week of August traveling with a local physician to bring medical care to a different rural community each day.

“We just had this experience that’s really hard to put into words,” said Kirsti Muth, group leader and organizer of the trip. “Seeing how the people live in these poor communities was really eye-opening. It’s one thing to not have the financial ability to receive medication or medical care, but they also don’t have access to it. We were traveling an hour outside of Antigua, up this mountain where there aren’t even real roads. If it took us an hour by car, I can only imagine how long it would take them to get down. They don’t have vehicles—they’re lucky if they have a donkey or horse—and there’s no pharmacy, clinic or anything like that. So they really depend on groups like us to come up to the mountain and give them that care.”

In each community, the group set up clinics wherever space was available—a child care center, school classrooms, even a woman’s porch. The students switched roles daily, so each had the opportunity to participate in the five stations of service: a pharmacy operating out of suitcases, where students helped distribute and explain medication to patients; a triage area, in which the students assisted the local physician who explained what he was seeing as he assessed patients; two health education stations to teach correct hand-washing and teeth-brushing methods, and a station for medication administration, where mothers and children were given antiparasitic medication and vitamins.

“We did a lot of health education with the kids,” Muth noted. “We showed them how to brush their teeth and gave them toothbrushes and toothpaste. In America everybody brushes their teeth, but most of these kids, even as young as three years old, already have rotting teeth. They don’t have toothbrushes or toothpaste, and no one ever taught them that it’s something they should do. The kids were so excited about getting a toothbrush—it was a gift to them—they said ‘thank you for my present.’”

The trip exceeded everyone’s expectations, which was a relief to Muth who had worried that she built up the group’s expectations too high.

“Before the trip, I started to get a little nervous,” she admitted. “What are we going to experience? What are we getting ourselves into? But we got there and everything that we did, every single day, was just better than the last. And the people were so grateful and gracious, so appreciative and welcoming. It was incredible.”

Read more about the mission on Kirsti Muth’s blog.

Go on the mission—Click image to see photo album with captions by Kirsti Muth.

Participants: Nursing students: Steve Amuz, Sarah Christofferson, Ashley Debrowski, Amanda Jackson, Kirsti Muth, Janeth Nodleman and Allie Woodward. Family members: Stephen Clements, Amanda’s fiancé and a pre-med student and phlebotomist; David Muth, Kirsti’s father and a paramedic; and Camron Nodleman, Janeth’s husband and a pharmacist.

Nursing Students on a Mission
This photo shows the volunteers, field manager Jorge, Dr. Cuyan and some of the local community of San Felipe de Jesus. Click the image to see the photo album.
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