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RN-BSN Students were “Up for the Adventure” in Paraguay

July 29, 2013

“The students really worked hard to prepare…they adjusted tasks as needed and were up for the adventure!” said Jeannine Uribe, PhD, who accompanied eight online RN-BSN students from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions on a trip to Paraguay, a land-locked country in the heart of South America. Drexel students were joined by professional medical and nursing staff from SouthEast Lancaster Health Services, including Erica Coulter, MD, Rebecca Nehring, CRNP, and Jeannette Cancel, LPN. The group was led by representatives from OutreachPARAGUAY.

On June 12, the group boarded planes to Asuncion, the country’s capital city. After seeing an invitation in October 2012, the students enrolled in an online course called “Nurses Building a Healthy Community,” which included a 60-hour clinical requirement. Students Janet Azevedo, Elizabeth Clark, Amy Cohen, Ellen Hamilton, Kevin Hannon, Krista Leech, Roseann Neilsen, and Christina Patterson completed this classwork in the spring in preparation for their trip to Paraguay this summer. On June 12, the group boarded planes to Asuncion, the country's capital city. They returned on June 23.

The students, along with course instructor Eileen Sosa, MSN, CRNP, and course coordinator Jeannine Uribe, travelled throughout the country. The group presented health education programs in Spanish about flu season and hand-washing to children in local Paraguayan elementary schools. “The students were wonderfully creative. They made art and did a puppet show. They also did a hand-washing demonstration using glow powder to simulate the spread of germs,” said Uribe, an assistant clinical professor in the RN-BSN Completion Department. Both Professor Sosa and Uribe lived in Paraguay from 1983-85 while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. While Professor Sosa travels there frequently, this was Uribe's first trip back to the country since her Peace Corps experience.

While in Paraguay, the group witnessed a lot of poverty. “You could see it as poor or as self-sufficient,” Uribe said. “They’re very, very self sufficient is the way I’d put it.” Students played checkers with locals using bottle caps, and ate typical local food including bean soup and corn bread. At many of the homes they visited, families raised all kinds of animals. Professor Sosa discussed the subsistence farming that many Paraguayans undertake in order to support their families. In Paraguay, there is a wide divide between the rich and the poor. "Throughout the trip, participants were given many opportunities to experience the rich culture and people of Paraguay. While poverty is extensive in Paraguay, generosity is abounding," Sosa said. Wherever it was needed, the group distributed the more than 700 pounds of donated clothing and other useful household items they brought with them.

In addition to the hand-washing and influenza education they provided to Paraguayan elementary school children, the RN-BSN students split up and made home visits to learn more about families’ health needs and barriers to health care access. "I can't stress enough the role that our Paraguayan hosts played," Sosa said.

The students also toured a local hospital, met with the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, James Thessin, visited the second-largest hydroelectric turbine in the world, Itaipu Dam, and experienced the Iguazu Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world.

To view trip photos taken by RN-BSN student Kevin Hannon, visit the Facebook album. If you are interested in learning more about future RN-BSN trips to Paraguay, please contact Jeannine Uribe.