A passionate group of Fairfield University nursing students traveled to Nicaragua over spring break to immerse themselves in a new healthcare environment.
“I loved my time in Nicaragua. It was a very unique experience getting to see the clinics in small communities outside of the capital, Managua. As a nursing student at Fairfield University, we are privileged to complete our clinical experiences at some very well-known hospitals with so many resources; but to step inside a clinic in Nicaragua is so different and truly humbling,” said nursing major Olivia Foye ‘18. “The work we were able to complete was beyond rewarding. This experience has truly opened my eyes to public health at a global level.”
This program was initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the Center for Faith and Public Life, for nursing students to collaborate with the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) and community partners to develop and implement sustainable, evidence-based interventions to address health concerns. Fairfield University’s community partners include two neighborhoods in Managua: Ayapal and Nueva Vida, in addition to the Santa Maura coffee farm in northcentral Nicaragua, near the town of Jinotega. The partnership is unique in the sense that Fairfield students are exposed to working with social work students and also students learning to teach English as a second language. This year, project participants worked in two urban communities, Ayapal and Nueva Vida.
Nicaragua has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer deaths. To address this issue, students completed house-to-house interviews with over 100 men and women in Ayapal, where they asked about their knowledge of pap smear tests and cervical cancer. After evaluating the learning needs of the community, program participants developed a handout to educate the community on the importance of pap smear screening to detect cervical cancer in its early stages and to promote better outcomes.
Nicaragua also has a high rate of childhood obesity. To combat this issue, students visited Nueva Vida to complete a third year of tracking growth data for a primary school. Program participants measured weights and heights of 230 students in a Nicaragua school. In addition to collecting this data they developed educational activities addressing healthy food choices, exercise habits, water safety, and bullying.
“This trip allowed me to truly see the varying degrees to which social determinants can affect access to healthcare and quality of life,” said nursing major Zerin Sattar ‘18. “I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to give back to another community, and even more so for gaining so many new friendships on this trip. I definitely left a piece of my heart in Nicaragua and I do wish to visit again one day, hopefully on an alumni trip.”
10 Fairfield University nursing majors and two RN and BSN students participated in the program, which is open to nursing undergrads enrolled in the "Community, Public, and Global Health" nursing course, any undergrad nursing student in a four-year program in the U.S. enrolled in an independent study at Fairfield, and graduate nursing students enrolled as MSN or DNP students at Fairfield.