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Published: Monday, 2/17/2014 - Updated: 2 years ago

Lourdes sending student nurses abroad

Group of about 20 people traveled to Haiti recently

First-semester nursing student Hanna McLaughlin, right, takes notes during a presentation by Martha Gallagher, a nurse and associate professor at Lourdes who led the January trip to Haiti. First-semester nursing student Hanna McLaughlin, right, takes notes during a presentation by Martha Gallagher, a nurse and associate professor at Lourdes who led the January trip to Haiti.
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As part of nursing education, Lourdes University is sending students abroad to work in real-life conditions.

Martha Gallagher, a nurse and associate professor, told a roomful of students and staff last week that a Jan. 11-19 mission to Pestel, Haiti, treated 1,128 patients and administered 1,504 prescriptions. Also part of the trip was teaching locals how to care for their own people after the group left.

The group of about 20 people who traveled to Haiti was an integral mix of multidisciplinary medical professionals, from a dentist to an internist, and an emergency medical physician and pharmacist. Translators, drivers, and a mechanic were also part of the team.

Also included in the group were Lourdes graduate student Tracy Ewing and Liz Nims, a nurse and associate nursing professor who also spoke during last Wednesday’s presentation.

Each day the team traveled to villages typically lacking proper hospitals and set themselves up in school buildings to treat as many patients as possible.

“They are working hard, carrying heavy loads … they don’t wear hats or sunglasses, although they are out in the sun all day. So their complaints make sense,” Mrs. Gallagher said of the Haitians who turned out for medical care.

Burns were common, she said, because many in Haiti cook using open flames. Headaches are common among women because they carry heavy loads on their heads.

Other common problems include wounds, stomach aches, dehydration, and pneumonia.

The presentation touched on Haiti’s abject poverty, which was worsened by the devastating earthquake of 2010, and showed how many people there lack what might be considered common health knowledge.

Mrs. Gallagher cited World Health Organization statistics saying the Haitian government spends about $25 per person annually on health care and related services, compared to the United States’ more than $3,900 “to keep us healthy.”

The mission team trained several designated locals as “health promoters,” to tend to the sick in their villages. They also created informational public announcements and signs, using mainly images, that taught locals about health topics and nutritional guidelines.

Health promoters were taught how to deliver babies, use stethoscopes, and identify normal breathing sounds to assist in diagnosing asthma and other respiratory ailments.

In total 40 people were trained in the health practices and given medicine to administer to the people in their village, Mrs. Gallagher said.

A different group traveled to the impoverished African nation of Lesotho — formerly a black South African “homeland” — for a transcultural educational experience Jan. 1 to 12. That trip will be the subject of a presentation Wednesday, starting at 4 p.m. in Room 110 of St. Joseph Hall on the Lourdes campus.

Future missions, some which are for school credit, will be to Peru and the Dominican Republic.

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