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Caring for a community in Peru


For nearly 13 years, Assistant Professor Karen McKenna MSN, RN has been taking students to the same community in Peru for health promotion and education. This year, during spring break, McKenna along with Adjunct Assistant Professor Elise Pizzi, MSN, CRNP traveled with eight senior nursing students as part of their health promotion practicum to an Augustinian Mission in the town of Chulucanas to continue this relationship.

During their week-long visit, small groups of the students and faculty made daily morning home visits that were led by health promoters from one of three parishes in the community. Each afternoon, they would give health promotion presentations to the community that were organized by the health promoters in a parish zone.



Topics came from a list sent by a public health nurse from the Peruvian community on behalf of the residents. Among them were issues such as diabetes and hypertension, preventable diseases that are prevalent in the community due in part to lack of nutrition and education on these topics. At the request of one of the health promoters from the community, the group held a question and answer session about health issues on Friday evening.

As the College has continued its ongoing relationship working with this community, health promotion and education have been integrated into student projects each visit. However, this year, the group was asked to present on a very different topic, one they had not expected or had done in the past. This new topic, encompassing stress, self esteem, bullying and family dynamics, was unanticipated but surrounded important issues that all cultures face. Though these were new and challenging topics, the students were able to effectively communicate prevention strategies and coping mechanisms to the community. The people of Chulucanas were so impressed with the students’ presentation that they asked for it to be repeated again during the College’s next visit.

Students were moved by what they saw during home visits with faculty where they performed health assessments. During one of these visits, the group encountered an elderly man who was blind and in constant pain from years of uncontrolled diabetes; other patients, some of whom were alone and caring for themselves, struggled with issues such as heart disease and respiratory infections. Discussing the visit, McKenna noted a significant difference in some of the patients they assessed compared to the past— some patients who had abdominal surgeries were now living with ostomies. The poor ventilation and the unrelenting humidity put them at great risk for post-surgical complications.

Challenges continue in Chulucanas but so will the efforts of the Villanova Nurses to restore health and promote wellness in conjunction with the local residents.