My name is Beth Gates. I am a senior in the UAH Nursing Program. This past week, I had the opportunity to journey to Guaranda, Ecuador with fellow nursing students and an instructor for a medial mission trip. I wanted to say a quick thank you to the Honors SAGA program for being a part of sending me.
On this trip we set up five different clinics around Guaranda. In these clinics, our team (the team included nursing students, a pharmacist, a doctor, and EMTs) provided basic medical care, medications, and eye glasses. Different stations were set up for patients to move efficiently through the clinic. First, the patients registered and went to triage. In triage, the patient’s symptoms and complaints were written down, vital signs were taken, and protocols were followed to determine if the patients needed to see the physician. The most common complaints in these areas were back pain, acid reflux, dry eyes, and dehydration. From these patients and encounters, I learned to never take for granted the ‘basic’ knowledge we have been given about hygiene, nutrition, and caring for oneself. In this clinic, we were not able to treat chronic illnesses or anything that required invasive measures. It was hard, but we did have to tell many people that we could not provide the care they needed. Healthcare in Ecuador, for the time being, is free to all citizens but many people do not have physicians in their regions.
I learned so so much while in Ecuador: some personal, cultural, travel, and nursing related. I learned that there are many different types of bathrooms that can be used; some with running water and some in which you run your own water. I learned many new Spanish words and phrases. I learned that the people of Ecuador are very hospitable. Overall the trip was a beautiful experience, illnesses included. I made, what I think will be, lasting connections with the people I worked with and served. I learned a lot about myself and what I think my career will involve moving forward. I also learned that Ecuador is a beautiful country full of amazing people.
Driving through the Andes Mountains was a humbling experience. The scenery was breathtaking. At one point we reached an elevation of 15,000 ft. We learned about Mt. Chimborazo – the people of Ecuador are very proud of it. Chimborazo is the tallest mountain in the world. It is not the tallest mountain by elevation above sea level, but its location along the equator makes its peak the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. It has been a dormant volcano since 550 A.D.
Here is a list of a few tips for those traveling to Ecuador or traveling in general:
- Take toilet paper everywhere you go
- Bottled water is essential: never drink or use the tap water without asking someone with experience in that country
- Bring snacks and comfort food: eating in other countries is often a challenging experience and it is nice to have something from home
- Bring a jacket even if you don’t think you will be cold, be prepared for any weather and temperature
- Take lots of pictures, but don’t be stuck behind you camera and miss out on taking in the beauty in front of you
- Be flexible: schedules and needs change AND time is often viewed differently in other cultures
- Be careful about eating food that you or your host didn’t prepare BUT don’t be afraid to try new things, there is some delicious food waiting out there
- Drink lots of water: the extra exertion will dehydrate you and if you are in Ecuador, the elevation will too.
- Do your job or task to the best of your abilities but don’t forget to see the person in front of you and the other needs they may have
- Carry a journal with you: don’t write down every detail, just the ones that mean the most to you and the highlights
- Be culturally sensitive and learn as much as you can about the culture and people around you
Thanks for reading!
All the best,