Nurses in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The School of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill encourages students to develop the knowledge and skills needed to provide quality care in global environments and to recent immigrants to the United States. Students can do this by taking a summer course and meeting requirements by volunteering with a nongovernmental organization or local health care agency in a global health setting.
One such agency is the El Centro de Salud in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. The public health clinic offers preventive family care as well as low-level emergency services for about 8,000 residents of the village. At the clinic, Carolina nursing students get hands-on practice in a cross-cultural learning environment.
Teotitlan del Valle is in rural southern Mexico, about 17 miles (about 30 minutes) outside of the city of Oaxaca in the Tlacolula valley. In this centuries-old indigenous village many of the older residents speak Zapotec — the predominant language of the region — and only know a smattering of Spanish. The area is high desert plateau at about 6,000 feet altitude, nestled at the foot of the 9,000-12,000 Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range. There are 2,000 looms in the village, which is known for its fine textiles.
Since 2008, School of Nursing students have spent several weeks during the summer before their senior year living with a family and working alongside local doctors and nurses. The program was established by Norma Hawthorne, director of advancement for the School of Nursing, who has a long-term relationship with a village leader, Federico Chavez Sosa. In 2007, she asked if a UNC Chapel Hill student could live, work, learn and share in an intercambio – an intercultural exchange – and the program was launched.
Today, Mr. Chavez Sosa heads the committee responsible for the entire village’s public health, including the clinic – one of the newest and most modern in the region. He talked to us recently about the community health concerns articulated by the new governor of the state of Oaxaca, Gabino Cue. Women’s and children’s health is a high priority, especially pre-natal care, labor and delivery. Mr. Chavez Sosa is interested in having many more Carolina nursing students participate in the experience. He notes that the health care needs of the village are immense, and the village values participation by Carolina students because of their knowledge, dedication and contributions.
Students receive academic credit for NURS 489 Practicum in Nursing: Global Health Experience. This class is specifically designed for students with an interest in traveling abroad so that they may learn about health systems and the nursing profession in other countries. The academic program director is Christine Harlan, BSN, RN, MA, (firstname.lastname@example.org
). Some financial assistance may be available to students through various funding sources.
A History of UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing Volunteers in Teotitlan del Valle:
2008 – Leilani Trowell
Leilani traveled the village by foot with local nurses to immunize children in their homes, did patient intake in the clinic, and assisted in out-patient procedures.
2009 – Lindsay Bach
Lindsay developed a diabetes education program for village women that included exercise and fitness as well as healthy food choices and recipes. She had spent two years in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan before coming to Carolina for nursing.
2010 – Amy Faline Davenport
Amy was a doula and interested in women’s health, prenatal care, birthing and post delivery. She assisted in maternity and new born care. She had already earned the MPH before she decided to become a nurse.
2011 – Kathy Ray
Kathy is pursuing her second degree and is the mother of three older teenagers. The experience will give her an opportunity to brush up on Spanish language skills as well as preparing her to care for new NC immigrants from Mexico.